No Real Bone Density Benefit From Vitamin D Supplements
October 12, 2013

Study Finds Vitamin D Supplements Do Little To Improve Bone Health

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

A study published this week in the medical journal The Lancet has reportedly found little evidence supporting the use of vitamin D supplements by seniors hoping to improve bone density and warn off potential fractures.

According to Doug Podolsky of Consumer Reports, the study authors reviewed data on over 4,000 healthy adults (average age, 59) who participated in 23 randomized controlled trials. Half of the studies involved both vitamin D and calcium supplements, while the others looked at the use of vitamin D pills alone.

The supplements were taken by the subjects for an average period of two years, according to BBC News, and the trials were conducted in several different countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, Finland, Holland and Norway. On the whole, the researchers did not identify any benefit in the hip, spine, forearm, or overall body.

However, they did observe a slight, but not statistically significant, increase in bone density in the femoral neck near the hip joint. Nick Collins, Science Correspondent with The Telegraph, reported the researchers found a 0.8 percent increase in bone density at the top of the thigh bone – a minute improvement the investigators believe is unlikely to have any actual clinical impact.

“Most healthy adults do not need vitamin D supplements,” lead researcher Ian Reid of the University of Auckland Department of Medicine said in a statement. “Our data suggest that the targeting of low-dose vitamin D supplements only to individuals who are likely to be deficient could free up substantial resources that could be better used elsewhere in health care.”

“I'm not surprised they didn't find any evidence of the effects of vitamin D on bone density because there are so many other factors involved in osteoporosis, like genes, diet and environment,” Dr. Laura Tripkovic, a research fellow at the University of Surrey’s Department of Nutritional Sciences, added in an interview with the BBC.

She added most men and women receive enough vitamin D naturally, through sunlight and foods such as fish, eggs and breakfast cereals. However, she noted that anyone concerned about a possible deficiency can take a multi-vitamin supplement to address the issues. Dr. Tripkovic also suggests anyone experiencing bone pain or muscle aches should consult with their family doctor or other medical professionals.

“If you are taking vitamin D supplements for your bone health, ask your doctor whether you should. And you should be cautious about supplemental calcium, too, since some research has linked calcium supplements to heart attacks,” Podolsky said. “That concern is a reminder that it's better and safer to get your nutrients from food, such as dairy products and green leafy vegetables, rather than pills. And since the body makes vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, you can help maintain your stores by getting some midday sun exposure during the warmer months.”