Vitamin D Supplements Ineffective for Bone Health

A new study has found that women who take vitamin D3 supplements do not have better bone health, suggesting that vitamin D produced in the body from moderate sun exposure, together with a combination of vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, are all essential to bone health.

According to the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine (2015), vitamin D3 supplements do not have any effect on the bone health of postmenopausal women. Even high doses were not enough to protect the women from the risk of osteoporosis, the study found.

The study authors noted, “While high-dose vitamin D did indeed increase calcium absorption, the increase was only 1 percent and did not translate into gains in spine, hip or total body bone mineral density.” The study authors also found that the vitamin D supplements provided no benefit to muscle mass, muscle fitness or fall risk.

Study details

Hand holds a box of vitamin D2The researchers studied 230 elderly women who were vitamin D deficient. The women were split into three groups: one group received a high dose of vitamin D, another group received a low dose of vitamin D, and the last group received a placebo pill. All the women took the supplements for one year. The low-dose group and the placebo group saw their calcium absorption ability drop by one and two percent. The high-dose group saw an increase in calcium absorption of one percent.

Even though the vitamin D had some effect in the high-dose group, it provided no extra benefit to spine health, muscle mass, physical mobility, fall risk or bone mineral density.

Study implications

According to the U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, postmenopausal women are at high risk for developing osteoporosis. About half of all elderly women will experience a bone fracture related to low bone mass, bone density or muscle mass.

Dr. Rita Redberg, an editor for JAMA Internal Medicine, had this to say about the study:

“I think this is the final, and negative, word on vitamin D supplementation. There are a lot of women getting vitamin D blood tests and taking vitamin D supplements of various doses. This study suggests that those practices should stop. In other words, if you are going to start vitamin D to improve bone health, and if you are currently taking it for that reason, you can stop. I know of no other benefits for vitamin D supplementation.” 

What to do instead

Vitamin D is essential for the health of the body. Low vitamin D levels have been linked with immune system problems, poor muscle mass, weak bones and depression. So why don’t vitamin D supplements provide any benefit?

Other studies have found that the right balance between vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K2 is essential to gain the maximum benefits to bone health. It could be that the women did not have the right balance of nutrients to improve their bone health. Physical activity is also important for bone health.

You don’t have to supplement with vitamin D to improve your health. A better solution is to spend 10 to 30 minutes a day in direct sunlight. This will give you the vitamin D that the body can use best.

Compliment your time spent outdoors with a diet rich in bone-building foods, such as fermented foods (which are high in vitamin K2), seafood, full-fat dairy, and mineral-rich foods like kale and other leafy greens.

—The Alternative Daily


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