Vitamin D supplements not effective against osteoporosis in older adults

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The research, published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, analyzed data from 81 randomized controlled trials - involving more than 53,000 people - that studied whether the over-the-counter supplement helped in fractures, falls and bone density. Vitamin D supplements have always been recommended for older people to treat or prevent osteoporosis, a bone-loss condition, with some early evidence suggesting benefits for bone health.

The study did find that vitamin D supplements could be helpful in some rare cases, such as rickets and osteomalacia (a severe vitamin D deficiency that results in bone softening).

The vitamin has always been associated with a decreased risk of a number of conditions, such as osteoporosis and hypertension, in addition to keeping bones strong by helping the body absorb calcium - which is why many use it during the dark winter months. These can occur due to vitamin D deficiency.

They recommended that public health bodies stop promoting vitamin D supplements as having a meaningful impact on a person's health.

A review of previously published studies found that taking either high or low doses of vitamin D supplements didn't prevent fractures or falls, or improve bone density.

According to Bolland and his team, it is time that we stop advocating vitamin D supplementation for osteoporosis; a bone condition where the bones become weak and brittle and tend to fracture easily. Therefore, there is little justification for the use of vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve musculoskeletal health, and clinical guidelines should reflect these findings'. Most included women aged over the age of 65 (77% of trials) who lived in the community and who received daily doses of more than 800 IU per day (68% of trials).

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"What is important to keep in mind is that those with low vitamin D were not represented in this meta-analysis, and vitamin D supplementation - repletion, actually - is still necessary for those with low vitamin D levels, regardless of age", said Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The findings were published online October 4 in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

Professor Louis Levy, PHE's head of nutrition science, said: "This study highlights the importance of maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D to reduce the risk of poor musculoskeletal health".

For more on vitamin D, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Bolland suggests doctors and health officials now recommending the vitamin to older patients as a way to prevent osteoporosis or brittle bones should stop.

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