Vitamin D supplements are widely recommended to help decrease the risk of osteoporosis— but a new clinical trial found they are not beneficial for healthy adults. In line with other studies, vitamin D supplements should be taken primarily by those diagnosed by their doctor with a vitamin D deficiency.
“Large, well designed studies provides us with the highest level of evidence to help make clinical decision,” explains Alexander Gaukhman, M.D., orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “According to a study recently published in the New England Journal Of Medicine about Vitamin D, patients that did not have a vitamin D deficiency did not benefit from oral over the counter supplementation.”
The goal of the new randomized clinical trial was to determine whether oral supplementation with Vitamin D could improve bone health in patients over 50 years old.
In a large randomized controlled trial, researchers tested whether 2000IU per day of Vitamin D3 supplement would result in a lower risk of fracture compared to placebo. After an average five year follow up period, there was no difference in fracture between the two groups leading the study to conclude that oral supplementation with Vitamin D in healthy individuals did not lower the risk of an osteoporotic fracture.
Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is typically acquired naturally through certain foods and exposure to sunlight. It helps balance the amount calcium and phosphate in our bodies, which is crucial for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. In older adults, bone health is vital for preventing falls and fragility fractures.
“It’s always helpful to discuss oral supplementation with a primary care physician or your orthopedic surgeon,” said Dr. Gaukhman. “If you are vitamin D deficient, then you should continue taking supplements as prescribed since a deficiency could lead to decreased bone mineral density and increase the risk of an osteoporotic fracture.”
The importance of proper vitamin D levels has garnered increased attention since the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because vitamin D also can bolster your body’s immune system to fight infectious diseases. Some studies have found that vitamin D deficiencies can increase a person’s risk of COVID infection and severe illness. But even before the pandemic, it was estimated that more than 40 percent of U.S. adults have some degree of vitamin D deficiency.
“A healthy diet combined with regular weight bearing exercises including gait training is of utmost importance in the geriatric population,” said Dr. Gaukhman. “Starting with 30 minutes a day and increasing resistance to a comfortable level can help decrease the risk of falls and subsequent fractures. Coupled with a healthy diet, daily exercise and occasional supplementation, patients can expect an improvement in their quality of life.”