Vitamin D supplements unnecessary for healthy adults

29 November 2016
Associate Professor Mark Bolland
Associate Professor Mark Bolland

Most people get sufficient vitamin D from sunshine and diet and do not need to take vitamin D supplements, according to a review led by the University of Auckland’s Associate Professor Mark Bolland.

In the review, published in the latest British Medical Journal that involved research colleagues at the University of Auckland and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Dr Bolland says that scientific evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplements to prevent disease, except in a small group of people at high risk.

“Those at high risk of vitamin D deficiency should be advised about sunlight exposure and diet and offered low dose supplements, but the rest of us should focus on eating a healthy balanced diet with food containing vitamin D and getting regular short bursts of sunshine,” he says.

Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight. It helps to maintain calcium levels in the body to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness due a condition called osteomalacia in adults.

During spring and summer, most people get enough vitamin D from sunlight on their skin and their diet. But in autumn and winter, when exposure to sunshine is minimal, the only source is from a limited range of foods such as oily fish, egg yolk, red meat, liver, fortified breakfast cereals and fat spreads.

Associate Professor Bolland and colleagues make the case (based on a comprehensive search of published evidence) that existing clinical trials show vitamin D supplementation does not improve musculoskeletal outcomes.

“There is no high quality evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for other conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers - and ongoing trial results are unlikely to alter these conclusions,” he says.

The study authors 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,” says Dr Bolland.

See the full paper at this link.


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