Despite our promotion of calcium and vitamin D supplementation as health professionals, our bone health continues to deteriorate as a population. In this study, published in the Lancet, researchers analyzed the results of clinical trials where vitamin D intake was altered and there were bone mineral density measurements taken. However, testing the effect of vitamin D on bone density may not have been the actual purpose of the studies. Dosages of vitamin D and baseline vitamin D status varied widely amongst the studies, as did calcium supplementation. There was some evidence of bone density improvement at one hip measurement but there was great variation in those studies – meaning that analyzing those studies is like comparing apples to oranges and perhaps less accurate. Vitamin D is a critical player in calcium metabolism but the results of this analysis suggest that vitamin D doesn’t directly build bone.
In our opinion, this study does not justify throwing out your vitamin D supplements; it simply highlights that good bone health is the result of a lifestyle pattern that includes adequate nutrient intake, physical activity and perhaps following an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan. A narrow focus on any one factor other than calcium will be unlikely to restore bone health on its own. The suggestion that higher doses of vitamin D are unnecessary in our population ignore the fact that the research is pointing to total body vitamin D benefits that are not limited to bone health. Emerging research suggests a role for vitamin D in cancer prevention and influencing immunity and inflammation.