Vitamin D Study Suggests Use May Not Be Beneficial In Healthy Adults

Patricia Didelot

A new study on the health benefits of Vitamin D concludes that taking the popular supplement may not be all its supposed to be.

The research suggests Vitamin D will not protect against heart disease, stroke, bone pain, or cancer in adults that don't have a deficiency.

"The take-away message is that there is little justification currently for prescribing vitamin D to prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer, or fractures in otherwise-healthy people living in the community," lead study author Dr. Mark Bolland, a researcher at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, told Medscape.

This study follows one, late last year, that caused controversy after it suggested that buying supplements and vitamins is a waste of money.

In December of 2013 a study found, when otherwise healthy individuals take Vitamin D they don't receive any of the purported benefits to protect them from heart disease and cancer.

The authors of the corresponding editorial urged consumers to not "waste" their money on multivitamins.

Doctors agree that a deficiency of Vitamin D is not good for people.

According to the website Office of Dietary Supplements, Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and health. It also helps with calcium absorption from foods.

Calcium is one of the most important elements for healthy, strong bones and a deficiency in this element can cause soft, thin, and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

A deficiency in Vitamin D may lead to bone pain and muscle weakness and an increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, cognitive impairment in older adults and severe asthma in kids.

However, for healthy individuals, the latest study suggests that those taking the supplement will not prevent these conditions.

It is estimated that about 50 percent of the US population takes a Vitamin D supplement with the belief that it will keep them healthy, according to the author of a commentary published with the new review, in the January 23 issue of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Researchers conducting the study viewed 40 scientifically rigorous studies that looked at whether taking vitamin D in supplement form would bring health benefits. The studies were called randomized controlled trials -- which are considered the "gold standard" in research -- because they control for other variables that may influence the results, instead looking for cause and effect, says CBS News.

Researchers found no protections against heart attack, stroke, cancer, and overall fracture risk, however, they found an increased risk for hip fracture among people taking vitamin D supplements.

The study also concluded that it is unlikely future studies will overturn the finding of this research.

"Available evidence does not lend support to vitamin D supplementation and it is very unlikely that the results of a future single randomized clinical trial will materially alter the results from current meta-analyses," the authors wrote.

Vitamin D supporters said the study is unfounded and called the previous research inadequate.

"The scientific term for it is 'silly,'" says Michael Holick, a professor of medicine at Boston University, told the paper. "There's nothing new here."

Recent studies have found vitamin D may help people with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

An editorial published along with this study also suggests tighter regulations on labeling, considering the hip fracture risk associated with Vitamin D.

The body absorbs Vitamin D directly from sunlight and a diet that includes products such as fortified milk, other dairy, and cereals; fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, which are excellent sources for the important supplement.