You Might Not Need a Daily Vitamin D Supplement After All, New Research Shows

A recent study conducted by a team at Harvard Medical School found that people over the age of 50 likely won’t reap benefits from supplementing the nutrient if they aren’t already deficient in it.

Nashia Baker, Associate Digital Editor at Martha Stewart

The benefits of vitamin D shouldn’t be underestimated: This nutrient is essential to your body’s function, and taking it in supplement form can keep your bones strong, help your muscles move, and support your immune system as it fights infections. Over time, research has shown that people should take this supplement on a daily basis for better health—but a recent study out of Harvard Medical School, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that those who don’t already have a vitamin D deficiency might not reap bone health benefits from taking high-dose daily supplements, reports Today.

Over 25,000 volunteers above the age of 50 participated in the study to test if 2000 IU (international units) of vitamin D3 supplements alone would limit risks of bone fractures in comparison to a placebo. In general, the study volunteers weren’t chosen with vitamin D deficiency, low bone mass, or osteoporosis in mind. The scientists observed the participants over the course of five years, and noted in the study that the vitamin D3 supplements “did not result in a significantly lower risk of fractures than (the) placebo among generally healthy midlife and older adults.”

“It’s really important also to point out again [that] this study was done in normal healthy people,” Natalie Azar, MD, NBC News’ medical contributor, said on Today. The outcome of this study “doesn’t necessarily apply to people who have risks for osteoporosis or who have low bone mass,” she said. It’s still recommended that those who have a vitamin D deficiency continue taking vitamin D, the medical professional explained.

Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 70 who are not deficient in vitamin D likely receive enough—typically 600 IUs a day, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—through their diets (foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, tuna, mackerel, and milk) and sunlight, which are two key sources of the nutrient. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re getting enough vitamin D daily, check in with your doctor, who can assess your levels and recommend a nutrition (or supplement!) plan if adjustments do need to be made.

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