Vitamin D supplements don’t really do anything to prevent disease for the majority of people, a new study suggests.
The winter months are a popular time for Vitamin D supplements, as people turn to them due to the lack of sunlight. Made naturally by the skin when under a healthy amount of sunshine, Vitamin D is necessary for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
But a review by researchers suggests that there has not been enough evidence from clinical trials that these supplements are actually beneficial, CNN reports.
Mark Bolland an associate professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said,
We conclude that current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplementation to prevent disease.
Bolland, along with Alison Avenell, a clinical chair in health sciences research at the University of Aberdeen and a team, found that clinical trials on Vitamin D have failed to show how supplements reduce the risk posed by fractures and falls to bones and muscles.
However, they do recognize that these supplements might still be useful for high-risk people, such as those in nursing homes and darker-skinned populations in cold weather. Avenell said, “Vitamin D will protect people who are at high risk.”
A proper diet with naturally-occurring Vitamin D, like oily fish, egg yolks, red meat, liver, milk, cereals and fortified foods will help with deficiency during cold months. Avenell observed, “In the US, vitamin D supplementation (through food) is higher.”
But in countries like the United Kingdom, fortified foods are not as common, so people turn to supplements instead. Recommendations for these supplements used to be only for people at high risk of contracting rickets and bone diseases, but Public Health England recently advised everyone to take 10 micrograms per day.
Some have argued that this is unnecessary, but Dr. Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said that their recommendations are backed by scientific evidence. He said, “When the days are darker and shorter and sun exposure is minimal, people should consider a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement, as it’s difficult to get enough through diet alone.”
Avenell’s team stands firm that while Vitamin D supplements are “unlikely to do any harm,” they also don’t prevent anything. Other benefits of Vitamin D did not show up in the review, either. “We didn’t see any conclusive evidence of vitamin D protecting against other conditions like heart disease or cancer (either).”
Scientists and medical professionals disagree, pointing out that people in the UK are highly Vitamin D-deficient and need the supplements. Others, on the other hand, say that the study shows how much more research is needed to delve into how Vitamin D really works before making any hasty conclusions.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal.