IF YOU’RE taking Vitamin D supplements to boost bone health, it may be a waste of time.
In a major new study, New Zealand researchers have found that taking Vitamin D supplements does not prevent fractures or falls, or improve bone mineral density in adults.
Vitamin D supplements have long been recommended as a preventative or treatment for osteoporosis. The study's results contradict many sets of guidelines around the world, including Australia, that recommend vitamin D supplementation.
The study, led by NZ researcher Mark Bolland, found little justification to use the supplements for musculoskeletal health, except in rare cases, such as rickets and osteomalacia, where lack of exposure to sunlight is a factor.
It also found no differences in the effects of higher versus lower doses of vitamin D. Now researchers want clinical guidelines to be changed to reflect the findings.
Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the study was conducted at the universities of Auckland (NZ) and Aberdeen in Scotland. It is the largest meta-analysis to date and includes data from 81 randomised controlled trials.
“Since the last major review of evidence in 2014, more than 30 randomised controlled trials on vitamin D and bone health have been published, nearly doubling the evidence base available,” said Dr Bolland from the University of Auckland.
“Our meta-analysis finds that vitamin D does not prevent fractures, falls or improve bone mineral density, whether at high or low dose. Clinical guidelines should be changed to reflect these findings.
“On the strength of existing evidence, we believe there is little justification for more trials of vitamin D supplements looking at musculoskeletal outcomes.”
Mr Bolland is a former recipient of the NZ Prime Minister's Science Prize. The study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.
The majority of the trials studied vitamin D alone (ie, not prescribed in conjunction with calcium supplements) and were of one year or less.
Most included women aged over 65 (77 per cent of trials) who lived in the community and who received daily doses of more than 800 IU per day.
The study found there was no clinically meaningful effect of vitamin D supplementation on total fracture, hip fracture or falls.
In secondary analyses looking at bone density, there were small differences for lumbar spine, femoral neck, and for total body, but the study found none of these were “clinically relevant”.