While many over-60s around the world take vitamin D supplements as a way to prevent and treat osteoporosis, doubt has been cast on the effectiveness the vitamin has on bone health. The latest research from New Zealand found taking vitamin D does not prevent fractures or falls and that it doesn’t improve bone density in adults.
The findings, published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal, found there is no difference in the effects of higher or lower doses of vitamin D on bone health. Researchers concluded that there is little justification to use vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve musculoskeletal health, following the results of the meta-analysis of 81 randomised trials.
While it could be effective in preventing rare conditions including rickets and osteomalacia in high-risk groups, researchers said this is mainly because these conditions occur due to vitamin D deficiency after a lack of exposure to sunshine.
Earlier evidence implied older people could benefit from taking vitamin D supplements to prevent osteoporosis, although more recent large-scale studies found the supplements have no effect on bone mineral density, falls or fractures. As a result, researchers said current guidelines that recommend vitamin D supplementation should be changed to reflect the latest evidence.
“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,” lead author Dr Mark J. Bolland said in a statement. “Our meta-analysis finds that vitamin D does not prevent fractures, falls or improve bone mineral density whether at high or low dose.”
The study analysed 81 randomised controlled trials, with the majority studying vitamin D alone and not in conjunction with other supplements. The results found there was no clinically meaningful effect of vitamin D supplementation on total fracture, hip fracture and falls. The clinically meaningful threshold for falls is 15 per cent, although the study found vitamin D also couldn’t reduce falls by 7.5 per cent or total fractures by 5 per cent.
While data analysing bone density did find small differences for lumbar spine, femoral neck and total body, researchers noted these changes weren’t clinically relevant. Because the data was collected differently for each trial, authors noted this could have an impact on the final results and more research should be conducted.
It’s always best to talk to a GP or health professional about the best treatment options for bone health.