What in the world do we do with vitamin D?


Some proposed health benefits

bone health (decreased bone fractures)

cancer prevention

heart health


Challenges with Vitamin D

The lab tests used to measure vitamin D are not standardized and currently are somewhat imprecise. This makes it difficult to determine a threshold for recommending supplementation. Based on a review of multiple studies, the Institute of Medicine recommends keeping a the vitamin D level between 20 and 40 ng/mL. Other organizations recommend keeping the level over 30, and this is what I recommend for my patients.


Benefits of Vitamin D

There is good research supporting the claim that vitamin D helps prevent bone loss and bone fractures in older individuals (over age 65).


Lack of Benefit with Vitamin D

A study released this month (11/10/18) showed that taking vitamin D supplements did not reduce the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease. Published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, this robust study randomized 25,000 patients - half were given vitamin D and half were given a placebo. There were no differences between the groups in incidence of any kind of cancer or in heart attacks or other cardiovascular events. Some news outlets are stating that vitamin D decreased the risk of death from cancer, but this is an overstatement of the statistics.


Conclusions

bone health (decreased bone fractures) - helpful

cancer prevention - not helpful

heart health - not helpful


References:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1809944?query=featured_home

PMID 9278463

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