A new large-scale analysis has found that despite popular belief, vitamin D supplements do not prevent fractures or falls, or improve bone mineral density in adults.
Led by the University of Auckland, New Zealand, the study is the largest meta-analysis so far to investigate the long-held association between vitamin D supplementation and bone health, looking at data from 81 randomized controlled trials.
Most of the trials (77 percent) included female participants over the age of 65, with the majority of the trials studying the effects of vitamin D alone, and not prescribed with other supplements.
The findings, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, provided reliable evidence that vitamin D supplementation has no clinically significant effect on total fracture, hip fracture, or falls.
The study also found no differences in the effects of higher versus lower doses of vitamin D.
When the researchers carried out further analyses to look at the effect of vitamin D on bone density, they found that although supplements appeared to make a small difference to the lumbar spine, femoral neck, and for total body, none of these differences were clinically relevant.
"Since the last major review of evidence in 2014, more than 30 randomized controlled trials on vitamin D and bone health have been published, nearly doubling the evidence base available. Our meta-analysis finds that vitamin D does not prevent fractures, falls or improve bone mineral density, whether at high or low dose," commented lead author Dr Mark J Bolland.
"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."
Vitamin D supplements have long been recommended for older people to treat or prevent the bone disease osteoporosis. However, despite some evidence that vitamin D is beneficial for bone health, other recent large-scale reviews have also found that vitamin D supplementation has no effect on bone mineral density, falls or fractures.