Dr. Minisha Sood, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said this new study should convince doctors that vitamin D supplements don't have a role in maintaining healthy bones, but they do have other benefits.
The Department of Health now recommends that all children under five should take a daily supplement, along with pregnant and breastfeeding women, and older people who are not often outdoors - for instance if they are frail, housebound or live in a care home.
"Hence the study lacked the ability to reliably test the effects of vitamin D on risk of hip fracture". When the researchers reduced the thresholds, they found that vitamin D was still ineffective for falls, at a threshold of 7.5%, and also total fractures at a threshold of 5%.
Vitamin D supplementation is now recommended for the elderly and all babies and children below the age of 5 years.
However, according to the scientists, Vitamin D supplementation remains the ideal solution for high-risk groups of patients exposed to rare conditions such as rickets and osteomalacia which are both triggered by Vitamin D deficiency. The majority of the trials studied vitamin D alone (ie, not prescribed in conjunction with calcium supplements) and were of one year or less.
The researchers are calling for changes in the clinical guidelines of osteoporosis management. Most included women aged over the age of 65 (77 per cent of trials) who lived in the community and who received daily doses of more than 800 IU per day (68 per cent of trials). This thinking is reminiscent of the fervour that supported the widespread use of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E years ago, and all of those vitamin trials later proved to be clinically negative.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight and a balanced diet.
The suggested extra-skeletal health benefits include cancer and heart disease, which previous research has shown to be inconclusive.
People with little or no sun exposure are more likely to develop vitamin D deficiency. Within 3 years, we might have that answer because there are approximately 100 000 participants now enrolled in randomised, placebo-controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation.
Vitamin D is found in a variety of foods.