Vitamin D Supplements Won't Help Prevent Disease: Review
Low levels of 'sunshine vitamin' could be a sign of illness, rather than a cause, studies suggest
Because the majority of interventional trials failed to find any benefit from vitamin D, the review's authors conclude that low vitamin D levels don't lead to ill health, rather they're caused by ill health.
They theorize that inflammation that occurs in many illnesses may be what depletes vitamin D levels.
Dr. Robert Graham, an internist from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "This comprehensive review did a really good job at trying to tease out the effects of different study designs, and the findings will be controversial."
He said there are currently five, large ongoing interventional trials that will help to better define vitamin D's role in disease. However, the results of those studies won't be available for a number of years. Until then, he recommended, "Try to achieve homeostasis [equilibrium]. You don't want to get to a low level of vitamin D."
The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units of vitamin D for adults, and 800 international units for people over 70.
Both Graham and Jayakar agreed that those are reasonable supplement levels. Jayakar said that for most people, vitamin D supplements are harmless, but added that "it's a pocketbook issue. Almost 50 percent of the population is taking vitamin D supplements. That's a lot of money for something that likely has no benefit," he said.
Jayakar added that this review's findings suggest that low vitamin D levels could be used as a marker -- a sign -- of disease in younger people. "If someone isn't feeling well and they have low vitamin D, maybe we should use that to start searching to see if something else is going wrong," he said.