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Researchers question benefit of vitamin D supplements

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There is no clear evidence taking vitamin D supplements helps prevent disease, according to researchers who suggest eating well and getting some sunshine is enough for most people.

Currently the official advice from Public Health England is that everyone should consider taking a vitamin D supplement in the winter to help keep teeth and bones healthy.

“Current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplementation”

Study authors

However, researchers from the University of Auckland, New Zealand and University of Aberdeen, argue there is no high quality evidence to suggest taking vitamin D help prevent falls and fractures.

Their comprehensive review of published research found the same lack of evidence when it came to other conditions such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

They suggest only people at high risk of vitamin D deficiency – such as those who are housebound or with syndromes that mean their bodies fail to absorb the vitamin – should be offered low dose supplements alongside advice on diet and exposure to sunlight.

“Otherwise we conclude that current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D supplementation to prevent disease,” said they said in the British Medical Journal today.

Their view is backed by experts including Tim Spector, professor of epidemiology at King’s College London.

Writing in the same edition of the BMJ, he said vitamin D supplements had a role to play in helping people with a genuine deficiency and high risk groups.

“The rest of us should avoid being ‘treated’ for this pseudodisease, save scarce NHS resources and focus on having a healthy lifestyle, sunshine and a diversity of real food,” he said.

However, Louis Levy, the head of nutrition science at Public Health England, stood by the body’s recommendations, which were recently the subject of a review by advisors that was published in July this year.

He told the BMJ that it was hard for most people to get enough vitamin D from food during the winter.

“When the days are darker and shorter and sun exposure is minimal, people should consider a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement as it is difficult to get enough through diet alone,” he said.

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