Vitamin D’s health links including its ability to boost bone density are not backed in the scientific literature, the British Medical Journal has found after an extensive review of published studies on the nutrient.
A summary of 100s of systematic reviews and meta-analyses examined vitamin D’s role in health and disease. The researchers stated, “universal conclusions about its [vitamin D’s] benefits cannot be drawn” in calling for more and better designed trials.
In regard to bone health, the researchers found vitamin D, “might not be as essential as previously thought in maintaining bone mineral density.”
That said, they found a “probable” association between vitamin D levels and birth weight, dental caries in children, maternal vitamin D levels at term, and parathyroid hormone levels in patients with chronic kidney disease who required dialysis.
An editorial advised doctors to avoid measuring 25-hydroxyvitamin D in asymptomatic patients without bone disease.
“Supplementation with vitamin D may seem like a cheap, better than nothing attempt at helping people improve health, but it may also harm, by increasing the risk of hypercalcaemia, and providing false reassurance of a prescription prevention pill, making it easier for people to lead poorer lifestyles.”
Responding to the research, Graham Keen, the executive director of the UK Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) said: “This latest research from the BMJ raises concerns over the merits of vitamin D supplementation, which arguably runs the risk of adding confusion over existing robust public health guidelines.
"Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies not only advises that all children should be offered vitamin supplements - specifically vitamin D, to safeguard their health - but also notes that these measures will save money for the UK National Health Service which is obviously an important public health consideration and message.
"In addition, the HFMA and other organisations have been actively working with the Department of Health (DoH) on messaging on vitamin D products targeting other vulnerable at-risk groups like the elderly, pregnant and breast-feeding women and those of ethnic origin.”
Look for more reaction to this research on NutraIngredients in the coming days.
British Medical Journal
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g2280 (Published 1 April 2014)
‘Vitamin D and chronic disease prevention’ (editorial)
Authors: Paul Welsh, Naveed Sattar