Vitamin D has long been recommended by experts as part of a healthy diet. It helps to keep bones strong by absorbing calcium. Muscles require it for movement and it helps strengthen the immune system. Milk has traditionally been championed as a good source, since most milk sold in the United States has vitamin D added to it. Fatty fish like mackerel and tuna are also high in the nutrient. The body also produces vitamin D when skin is exposed to the sun. Of course, sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, so this is generally not a good method of obtaining it. Many people also rely on supplements instead of food or drink to obtain vitamin D. A recent study published The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, however, suggests that vitamin D supplements do not appear to improve a person’s health.
Vitamin D supplements are incredibly popular. The study’s researchers stated that they are taken by almost half of all American adults. Several alleged health effects of vitamin D supplements were examined: myocardial infarction or ischaemic heart disease, stroke or cerebrovascular disease, and bone fractures. For these conditions a risk reduction threshold of 15 percent was implemented. That means that for vitamin D supplements to be deemed effective, their intake should reduce occurrences of these health problems by more than 15 percent. The study determined that this was not the case. In other words, there was no significant difference in reports of these conditions between people who consumed vitamin D supplements and those who did not. The effect on mortality was also considered, with a five percent risk reduction threshold, and it was not determined to be effected either. That is, people who consume vitamin D supplements do not appear to live longer. In short, consuming vitamin D supplements do not seem to improve an individual’s health.
The research team, which was led by Mark Bolland of the University of Auckland, came to their conclusions after they analyzed 40 previous studies examining the health effects of vitamin D supplements. Certain studies also utilized calcium supplements while others did not. The intake of calcium supplements was not determined to have any effect.
Not only do vitamin D supplements not seem to improve one’s health, evidence suggest that their intake may actually have a negative impact on the body. In an editorial which accompanied the report, Professor Karl Michaelsson of Sweden’s Uppsala University writes that there is a distinct possibility that harm may be caused to healthy individuals who take such pills. He only recommends that such supplements be used by people who are diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. Traditionally vitamin D has been recommended for intake since past research concluded that low levels of the nutrient in the body were associated with poor health and premature deaths. More recent studies have suggested that a lack of vitamin D in the body is the result of poor health, not the cause of it. That is, vitamin D level can go down as a result of illness. Most health experts advocate the inclusion of vitamin D in the diet, but supplements do not seem to do any good.
By Jean-Paul Gauthier