Vitamin D supplements aren’t helping your bones: study

A large study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology concluded doctors need to stop recommending vitamin D to a majority of patients.
A large study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology concluded doctors need to stop recommending vitamin D to a majority of patients. Getty Images

Taking vitamin D supplements for bone health may not be worth it.

According to a recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, vitamin D supplements don’t help with bone mineral density or prevent fractures and falls in adults.

Authors noted particularly for high doses of vitamin D,  the effects of the supplements were considered “uncertain.”

“There were no differences between the effects of higher and lower doses of vitamin D. There is little justification to use vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve musculoskeletal health. This conclusion should be reflected in clinical guidelines,” authors wrote in a statement.

READ MORE: Vitamin D supplements may be useless — Alberta research

Digging into the research

The study looked at data from randomized controlled trials that included more than 53,000 participants — mostly women over the age of 65. The team wanted to see if supplements found in common drugstores helped with fractures, falls and bone density, CNN reported.

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And while authors urged doctors to take their results into consideration before recommending the supplement to patients, the research did add vitamin D was still useful when it came to preventing rare conditions like rickets (a skeletal disorder) and osteomalacia (softening of the bones).

READ MORE: Vitamin D and winter — How Canadians can get the nutrient without sunshine

But some critics added the data may not be a true reflection of how the supplements affect bone health.

Dr. Robert Clarke, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Oxford said some of the trails didn’t have enough participants or used an insufficient dose of vitamin D.

“Hence the study lacked the ability to reliably test the effects of vitamin D on risk of hip fracture. So, it is too soon to suggest making changes to health recommendations on vitamin D for bone health based on this study,” he said.

Previous research from the University of Alberta in 2016 concluded vitamin D supplements, in general, did not provide the health benefits most of us believed.

WATCH: How much vitamin D do we really need?

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“Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single thing that you or I could do to be healthy that was as simple as taking a vitamin, which seems benign, every day? There is an appeal to it. There is a simplicity to it. But for the average person, they don’t need it,” Dr. Michael Allan, a professor of family medicine at the university previously told Global News.

The research also found while there was some evidence to suggest the vitamin could help prevent falls and fractures in seniors, the benefit was actually minimal.

“If you were to take a group of people who were at higher risk of breaking a bone — so had about a 15 per cent chance of breaking a bone over the next 10 years — and treated all of them with a reasonable dose of vitamin D for a decade, you’d prevent a fracture in around one in 50 of them over that time.”

Other sources of vitamin D

And while the sun is a natural source of vitamin D, most of us don’t get enough in colder months.

And the amount of vitamin D we need day to day really depends on age or if we are pregnant. Adults 70 or older should have 20 micrograms of vitamin D per day, while pregnant or lactating people should only have 15 micrograms, Health Canada noted.

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READ MORE: Vitamins won’t prevent a heart attack or make you live longer — study

“Our foods don’t naturally have vitamin D, there are very few foods that do. So, you can have fortified foods in your diet,” registered dietitian Nazima Quresh previously told Global News.

Cow’s milk, margarine, some yogurts and juices are often fortified with the vitamin.

If you are ever in doubt or unsure if you need to take a supplement to begin with, contact your health-care provider.

— with files from Maham Abedi, Caley Ramsay