Vitamin D supplements do not boost bone health: Lancet

Henrietta Strickland
October 10, 2018

Vitamin D supplementation does not prevent fractures or falls, or have clinically meaningful effects on bone mineral density, according to the research, which analyzed data from 81 randomized controlled trials - involving 53,537 people - that studied the efficacy of over-the-counter supplements.

Since the last major review in 2014, more than 30 randomised controlled trials on bone health and vitamin D have been published, almost doubling the evidence-base available. The study was led by Dr. Mark J. Bolland, associate professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. "Our analysis finds that vitamin D does not prevent fractures, falls or improve bone mineral density, whether at high or low dose".

Prof Bolland said things have changed since 2014, when the last major review of the evidence was carried out.

Vitamin D has always been considered as a silver bullet for keeping bones strong by helping calcium absorption, and associated with a lower risk of conditions like osteoporosis and hypertension.

"We believe there is no justification for more trials of vitamin D supplements with musculoskeletal outcomes because there is no longer equipoise about the effects of vitamin D on these outcomes".

The best way to naturally get the flawless amount of vitamin D needed by the body to stay healthy through exposure to the sunlight.

Vitamin D supplementation was shown to have no effect on total fracture, hip fracture or falls.

The studies that have been done are mostly on older people who could be at risk of osteoporosis (brittle bone disease), but Prof Avenell said there is no evidence of benefit for any adults - apart from those few who are at high risk of osteomalacia, a form of rickets in adults.

"T$3 here is little justification for the use of vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve musculoskeletal health, and clinical guidelines should reflect these findings", they wrote in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. Doctors may need to question whether they should be prescribing supplements to those at risk of developing osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions, or instead focusing on lifestyle advice to lessen the risks.

"I look forward to those studies giving us the last word on vitamin D", Professor Gallagher concluded.

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