Readers of Real Answers with Dr. Lavin are likely familiar with recent posts on tests to see if taking extra Vitamin D helps.
A series of recent studies suggest that taking Vitamin D pills, or gummies, or liquid, has no impact on the chance of getting cancer or heart disease.
On August 20, 2019, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study looking at the bone density, and bone strength, of people taking 400, 4,000, and even 10,000 IU of extra Vitamin D a day. For reference, the AAP recommends infants breast feeding take 400 IU of Vitamin D a day, it has been the standard dose for a supplement.
Most people think of Vitamin D as a vitamin that adds calcium, and so, density and strength to bones. And in its natural state, it does do that. People who have serious Vitamin D deficiency develop a state in which bones lack calcium and become quite weak, a condition called rickets. So if in a natural state, without supplement, Vitamin D deficiency causes bones to weaken, it makes sense that in healthy people taking lots of extra Vitamin D could possibly make bones even stronger than usual.
That would be a very nice impact, after all, bones weaken with age, and so osteoporosis, falls and fractures, are a major hazard of aging. Imagine if taking lots of Vitamin D could stop that from happening.
In this study (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2748796), hundreds of adults around 62 years old were given either 400, 4,000, or 10,,000 IU of Vitamin D a day, and the researchers then measured several items:
- Their bone density after supplementation
- Their bone strength after supplementation
- Their calcium level after supplementation
- And the chance of falling after supplementation.
For fans of Vitamin D, the results were disappointing.
With regard to bone density: the more Vitamin D, the less dense the bones over time.
With regard to bone strength extra more Vitamin D over the 400 IU dosage delivered no increase in bone strength.
With regard to calcium levels: even at the 400 IU level, there was a 17% of too high a calcium level.
- The track record of giving vitamins as pills, gummies, or liquids, that is, beyond that eaten naturally in foods is not good. Few benefits are proved, if any. The only exception is the supplementation of folate prior to conception, which clearly reduces the chance of the baby developing spina bifida. Early indications are that it may also reduce the chance of the baby developing autism. But promises of better health after taking extra Vitamin B, C, E have all failed to deliver.
- Vitamin D is rapidly joining B, C, and E as a failed supplement. The data are fairly convincing that extra Vitamin D does not reduce the chance of cancer or heart disease or even diabetes.
- Now this study raises questions about whether extra Vitamin D can even deliver a benefit that speaks to one of its core functions: stronger bones. This study not only demonstrates taking lots of Vitamin D, above 400 IU a day, not only fails to make bones stronger, it just might make them weaker.
More and more, the message continues to be clear: If you want to eat healthy, eat healthy foods. Supplements, particularly vitamins, will not release us from this fact.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin