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Evidence 'does not support use of vitamin D supplements', say researchers

Current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplements to prevent disease, a study published in BMJ has concluded.

Researchers from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland found that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the benefits of the supplementation.

They wrote that patients without a high risk of deficiency should obtain their vitamin D from a healthy diet and regular short bursts of sunshine and should not be offered supplements.

The study comes after Public Health England (PHE) advised that everyone should consider a 10μg daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter months.

However, the study concluded that patients at high risk of deficiency should only be given a low dosage of the vitamin on an individual basis and equally encouraged to boost their stores through diet and sun exposure, they said.

More than 30-50% of older people in some Western countries take vitamin D supplements, according to the study.

Based on a comprehensive search of published evidence, the new study make the case that existing clinical trials show that vitamin D supplements do not improve musculoskeletal outcomes, such as falls or fractures.

They also say 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.

The only benefits to vitamin D supplementation are most likely to be seen in severely deficient populations, they said.

It added: ’Otherwise we conclude that current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplementation to prevent disease.’

Writing elsewhere in the BMJ, Professor Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said: ’We have a strange love affair with vitamin supplements that makes the recent UK government message that everyone should take vitamin D in winter an easy sell. But is this recommendation evidence based?

’With a fifth of the population reported to have low levels is this a real modern epidemic or a pseudo-disease? Will tablets cure us or prevent problems and, importantly, are they completely safe?’

Readers' comments (7)

  • As usual bad evidence.. Read the effects of vitamin d on many conditions inc auto immune ones. 3yrs ago 30 to 50 was normal but now its 75. If you want vitamin d to have effect to control certain genes and anti inflammatory effect it should be ideally above 150. I think this article is written by a ccg board member or government to cut down on prescription costs

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  • Re 11.46pm
    "Levels ideally should be 150"
    Really??? By your reckoning 90% of Brits are Vit D deficient!
    The rush towards expensive mass prescribing with conflicting evidence during years of austerity has been utter madness. If patients want Vit D they should buy it themselves, and testing should be restricted to only very high risk groups.......
    ......except for TATT heartsinks,, where it has been a Godsend.

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  • A 2016 study of 8000 people in Crete showed that the mean level of Vitamin D in a normally distributed population was 48nmol/L in the summer. This is within the inadequacy range in the UK. Which suggests we need to reassess what we consider inadequate.
    There is also no evidence of a causal link between fatigue or generalise pain and low levels of Vitamin D.

    Katrinaka et al, Hormones 2016, 15(2), 205

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  • Dear All,
    Oh good God when will another fashion come and take over from Vitamin D? I'm so bored with it. The fact that there is an "intermediate" or "inadequate" range says it all.
    Nice to see PHE getting it wrong again.
    Paul C

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  • confusion galore! Another mess. evidence base- now baseless evidence.

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  • A meta-analysis; published in the BMJ. Two very good reasons not to waste a moment reading it.

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  • @10.27
    The suggestion that there is not very good evidence against Vit D does not mean that there is good evidence for it.
    Before PHE had gone great guns in promoting their strategy they should have evidence based it first.
    First do no harm.

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