New study does not change current advice on vitamin D supplementation, say osteoporosis experts

05 Oct 2018

A new review concluding that vitamin D supplements do not strengthen bones or prevent broken bones does not change current advice, say leading osteoporosis experts.

The study – published this week in The Lancet – reviewed the results of 81 research trials of people aged 18 or over taking vitamin D supplements. It found no reduction in fractures or falls and no improvement in bone density in people taking the supplements.

However, leading osteoporosis experts have questioned the significance of the findings and reiterated it does not change current guidance, advising that people at risk of vitamin D deficiency should continue to take their supplements.

“A large number of subjects included in the review had what are considered to be normal levels of vitamin D in the UK,” said Dr David Armstrong, expert adviser to the National Osteoporosis Society.

“Only 6% of subjects were actually considered deficient in vitamin D,” he continued, “with the majority being generally healthy and mobile adults at very low risk of breaking bones.

“Therefore, these findings are not really applicable to people who are at high risk of fracture, for whom it is especially important to get the vitamin D they need.”

Professor Neil Gittoes, clinical adviser to the charity, added: “This study doesn’t change our current understanding and advice about the role of vitamin D to maintain strong bones.

“There is an increasing consensus that taking supplements of calcium and vitamin D alone does not reduce falls and fracture risk.

“However, there are also some people who are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, including those who don’t get out in the sunlight very often, who may benefit from a vitamin D supplement – especially during the winter months.

“Where people are at high risk of fracture, drugs are recommended that have evidence demonstrating fracture prevention. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are also commonly prescribed ‘to be on the safe side’ and make sure people with osteoporosis are getting everything they need to promote strong bones.”

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