In another blow to the lucrative supplements industry, researchers have concluded that many users of vitamin D are wasting their time and money.
The combined Auckland University and Aberdeen University study published in the British Medical Journal says current evidence doesn’t support using vitamin D supplements to prevent disease.
Instead, people concerned about their uptake of the mineral should look to getting it from the sun and a healthy balanced diet.
However, they did say there was a case for low dose supplements for people with a high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight. It helps to maintain calcium levels to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Not enough vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness.
Most people get enough vitamin D from the sun on their skin and their diet in spring and summer. But in autumn and winter when sun exposure drops, the source is from a limited range of foods such as oily fish, egg yolk, red meat, liver, fortified breakfast cereals and fat spreads.
Because of this, some people take vitamin supplements. But researcher Auckland Associate Professor Mark Bolland says based on a comprehensive search of published evidence, vitamin D supplementation doesn’t improve musculoskeletal outcomes, such as falls or fractures.
There’s also no high quality evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplements help heart disease, strokes, and some cancers.
If vitamin D supplementation did have benefits, they are most likely to be seen in severely deficient vitamin D populations.
In light of the uncertainty, the researchers suggest people at high risk should be counselled about sunlight exposure and diet, and low dose vitamin D supplements considered on an individual basis.
“Otherwise we conclude that current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplementation to prevent disease.”