Vitamin D supplements are a waste when it comes to bone health, study says

BOSTON — Vitamin D may provide a number of health benefits, but strengthening your bones isn’t one of them. According to a new study, taking vitamin D supplements does nothing to prevent bone fractures in most healthy individuals.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted an ancillary study as part of the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL), a clinical trial involving more than 25,000 adults. Their review examined 1,991 fracture incidents among 1,551 people over a five-year period.

Compared to participants taking a placebo, those consuming vitamin D3 supplements failed to reduce their risk for a variety of different bone fractures. These injuries include hip fractures, major osteoporotic fractures, wrist fractures, and pelvic fractures.

Differences in a patient’s age, sex, race, body mass index, baseline vitamin D blood levels, and consumption of calcium or vitamin D supplements did not change the results for better or worse.

Those with weak bones still need vitamin D

“Overall, the results from this large clinical trial do not support the use of vitamin D supplements to reduce fractures in generally healthy U.S. men and women,” says lead author Meryl LeBoff, MD, Chief of the Calcium and Bone Section in the Endocrine Division at the Brigham, in a media release.

“These findings do not apply to adults with vitamin D deficiency or low bone mass or osteoporosis. Most participants in the trial were not deficient and may have already reached the vitamin D level needed for bone health. Our ongoing studies are focusing on whether free vitamin D levels or genetic variation in vitamin D absorption, metabolism, or receptor function will provide information about individuals who may benefit from supplemental vitamin D on musculoskeletal health.”

Previous studies have suggested that vitamin D does play an important role in bone health. Scientists say the nutrient — which is abundant in sunlight and certain foods like fish — helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. Both of these minerals are critical for building strong bones.

The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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