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.
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?’