It seems we may have to start getting our vitamin D the old fashioned way — sun exposure and foods like fatty fish, fortified milk, and mushrooms — a new report shows that supplements don’t offer significant health benefits. The report, published in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, reviewed 40 past studies on vitamin D, concluding that healthy people are unlikely to get any benefit when it comes to heart health, cancer prevention, or bone health.
So what about studies that have linked low vitamin D levels to heart disease and cancer? Lead researcher Mark Bolland explains that they don’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, telling USA Today that people with low levels of vitamin D “tend to be older, heavier, tend to exercise less and spend less time outside,” which might explain both their poor health and their low levels (due to lack of sun exposure).
In studies that gave people vitamin D supplements, Bolland says there was either no lowered risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, or bone fractures, or risk was lowered by less than 15 percent. However, the review didn’t rule out the possibility that vitamin D supplements might lower the risk of premature death by five percent.
Michael Holick, a professor of medicine at Boston University and a proponent of vitamin D, dismissed the review, explaining that vitamin D doses were too low in previous studies. He says it’s possibly higher doses — 2,000 IU a day — might be needed to produce benefits, much higher than the 200-400 IU used in the studies, and higher than the 600-800 IU currently recommended by the institute of medicine.
Do you take vitamin D supplements, or do you rely on sun exposure and food sources to get your daily dose?