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What do vitamin D supplements do for bones? – FITBOOK

Consumers expect strong bones from vitamin D supplements. What are they really worth? A Harvard study examined it.

Vitamin D is important for bone health. This fact has meanwhile become common knowledge, so that more and more people are resorting to the dietary supplement, especially during the dark season. Shouldn’t that lead to fewer broken bones and fractures in the general population? Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital were the first to address this question and conducted a large-scale study to investigate what vitamin D supplements actually do for bones.

One vitamin D pill a day for over 5 years

The researchers recruited 25,000 women and men over the age of 50 who were generally healthy. However, tests revealed that some subjects had low vitamin D levels at the start of the study. The participants were then divided into two groups. One took 2000 IU of vitamin D every day, which is about twice the daily requirement, and the other received a placebo. Five years later, the scientists counted how many broken bones or fractures had occurred in the respective groups in the meantime. The results have now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.1

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Why a vitamin D supplement might not necessarily be good for your bones

The result is surprising insofar as it made absolutely no difference for the vast majority of participants whether they were given the placebo or the real preparation. In numbers:

  • Among those who received vitamin D, 769 out of 12,927 participants had fractures — that’s six percent
  • And among those who received the placebo, 782 out of 12,944 suffered fractures — that’s also six percent
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Director of Studies Dr. Summarizing the finding in a university memo, Meryl LeBoff said, “Vitamin D intake did not result in a lower risk of fracture than placebo in generally healthy middle-aged adults.”2 In other words, vitamin D supplements can do little for the bones of healthy people.

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Helpful only for people with low bone density

The scientist admits that patients suffering from low bone density or osteoporosis can benefit from an extra daily dose of vitamin D. “Most of the participants in the study were not deficient and may have already reached the vitamin D level required for bone health.” So before you take food supplements only when you suspect something, you should always check with a doctor to see if there is a deficiency at all. The study supports the assumption that healthy people should not take anything at all. And: One way or another, broken bones cannot be prevented with vitamin D alone.

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Not just for the bones – what the body still needs vitamin D for

Vitamin D is involved in numerous metabolic processes, so that a deficiency is not only suspected of promoting depression, but also makes those affected more susceptible to infections. This also applies to deadly diseases such as cancer. According to a study by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, 30,000 cancer deaths could be prevented in Germany every year if the elderly population were adequately supplied with vitamin D (FITBOOK reported).3 Another study published earlier this year found that daily vitamin D supplements could reduce the rate of autoimmune disease in those over 50 by 22 percent.4 But here too, where there is no shortage, there is no need.

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