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Is everything you heard about vitamin D supplements true?

Vitamin D supplements are popular for osteoporosis and bone fracture prevention. In a recent study, researchers examined whether vitamin D supplements play a real role in bone health.

Vitamin D deficiency has long been linked to the development of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Vitamin D supplements are widely prescribed to prevent and treat osteoporosis in older adults since this population is in high risk of receiving less vitamin D from their diet. Despite the common usage of vitamin D, various studies suggest that its high dose might be not as helpful as presumed for bone health.

A study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology examined whether high doses of vitamin D supplements can prevent bone fractures and improve bone density. The researchers thoroughly searched the scientific literature and pooled out all relevant publications. They chose all studies where adults of 18 years or older received 800 IU per day or higher of vitamin D. The researchers analyzed data derived from 81 randomized controlled trials and more than 50,000 participants. They examined reports regarding hip or other bone fractures and a decrease of bone density.

The study found that adults who received vitamin D supplements did not improve their bone health. There was no reduction in the number of hip or total bone fractures and no increase in mineral bone density measurements. These results were the same for lower doses of vitamin D as a single supplement.

The authors report some restrictions of their analysis method, arising from methodological limitations in some of the included studies. Nevertheless, they confidently conclude that there is no by and large need to prescribe vitamin D supplements to all adults.

The authors suggest that an update of the current clinical guidelines is needed. They dissenter and advise that these findings do not include special populations of people with high risk to develop vitamin D deficiency, like pregnant women or breastfeeding babies.

Written by Marina Chemerovski-Glikman, PhD

Reference: Bolland MJ, Grey A, Avenell A. Effects of vitamin D supplementation on musculoskeletal health: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and trial sequential analysis. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology. 2018.



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