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New vitamin D trials have 'little chance' of showing health benefits, warns analysis

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By Nathan Gray+

11-Feb-2014

Randomised controlled trials on supplementation with vitamin D seem to show that the vitamin has little causal effect on our health outcomes, according to a new meta-analysis which suggests that future research is 'unlikely' to alter such conclusions.

The study, published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, examined the existing evidence from 40 randomised controlled trials - concluding that vitamin D supplementation does not prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer, or bone fractures in the general population by more than 15%.

Led by Dr Mark Bolland from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, the team behind the new analysis added that as a result vitamin D supplements probably provide little, if any, health benefit - and that future randomised trials with similar designs are 'unlikely' to reveal conclusions any different to those already published.

"Findings from observational studies have shown vitamin D insufficiency to be associated with a wide variety of disorders such as fractures, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer," noted Bolland and his team. "Such findings have led to calls for widespread vitamin D supplementation. However, some researchers have suggested that such recommendations should not be made without supportive trial data, and they have therefore called for randomised controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation with non-skeletal endpoints as primary outcomes."

Bolland and his colleagues used this trial data to perform several types of meta-analysis including a 'futility analysis', which predicts the potential of future study results to sway existing evidence - the results of which indicate that the effect of vitamin D, taken with or without calcium, on heart attack, stroke, cancer, and total fracture lies below a 'futility threshold'. 

"In view of our findings, there is little justification for prescribing vitamin D supplements to prevent myocardial infarction or ischaemic heart disease, stroke or cerebrovascular disease, cancer, or fractures, or to reduce the risk of death in unselected community-dwelling individuals. Investigators and funding bodies should consider the probable futility of undertaking similar trials of vitamin D to investigate any of these endpoints," said the team.

2 comments (Comments are now closed)

science trumps prejudice

Sorry if this study stomps your belief system Telekinetic; but science trumps prejudice every time, and it is your contribution that is irresponsible. The results are challenging but they are also fascinating, and the response should not be to deny the facts but to ask why the discrepancy between associative studies and prospective ones. Are there flaws in this study, were previous associations insufficiently parsed for variables?

There is something amiss here, and it is a challenge to all interested scientists to work out what it is. Shouting and name-calling do not further the debate, and although Big Pharma is often unscrupulous you cannot dismiss every result you don't like as a conspiracy to undermine natural medicine.

Finally, the D & K combo you suggest is well known and probably relevant, along with a host of other nutritional and non-nutritional factors, in conditions where abnormal calcification is an issue (ie osteoporosis and vascular disease) - but probably not the other conditions listed here.

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Posted by paul clayton
12 February 2014 | 12h17

Just Plain Irresponsible!

I have read numerous studies regarding the efficacy of Vitamin D and cancer prevention. This is an underhanded attack on cheap, non-pharmaceutical methods of maintaining health. Countless lives could have been saved with 5,000 i.u.'s of Vitamin D3 per day if this kind of disinformation would stop. Always supplement with Vitamin K2 as well.

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Posted by Telekinetic
11 February 2014 | 19h13

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