Using vitamin D supplements ‘does not prevent fractures or falls’

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A review of previously published studies found that taking either high or low doses of vitamin D supplements didn't prevent fractures or falls, or improve bone density. "Our results show that there is little reason for adults to take vitamin D supplements for their bones to protect against fractures, except people from high risk groups, such as those who have a prolonged lack of exposure to sunshine".

The authors say that clinical guidelines that continue to recommend vitamin D supplementation for bone health should be changed to reflect the best available evidence.

"The report included all available trials of vitamin D, but such trials included too few participants, used an insufficient dose of vitamin D, and had an insufficient duration of treatment", said Dr Robert Clarke, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Oxford.

"What is important to keep in mind is that those with low vitamin D were not represented in this meta-analysis, and vitamin D supplementation - repletion, actually - is still necessary for those with low vitamin D levels, regardless of age", said Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

He said advice given by medical experts and the government on vitamin D supplements should be adjusted to reflect the recent findings.

Vitamin D supplementation is now recommended for the elderly and all babies and children below the age of 5 years.

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In the study, the authors pooled data from 81 randomised controlled trials.

The pros and cons of vitamin D supplements have always been debated, with some worrying about the consequences if people with deficiencies stopped taking them.

More than half of the trials were done in populations with baseline concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD [2]) of less than 50 nmol/L (a cut-off often considered to indicate low vitamin D levels), but only 6% were done in populations with vitamin D deficiency (a baseline 25OHD of less than 25 nmol/L). The review found no link between vitamin D supplementation and reduction in the fracture, hip fractures or falls.

The majority of the trials that were analysed looked at vitamin D alone (not prescribed in conjunction with calcium supplements) and were of one year or less. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, per the BBC.

"During autumn and winter, those not consuming foods naturally containing or fortified with vitamin D should consider a 10mg supplement".

The study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

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