From the prevention of heart disease and cancer to alleviating depression, vitamin D is essential for optimal health. For decades, it was also prescribed as both a preventative and treatment for osteoporosis as vitamin D helps the body absorb the calcium it needs to build strong bones.
However, according to a recent study, vitamin D supplements do not work as well as previously thought to prevent osteoporosis in healthy adults.
In what is being referred to as the largest clinical study on vitamin D, researchers analyzed the genetic data of more than 500,000 people, looking at the genetics behind osteoporosis and bone fracture risk. Ultimately, they found no link between those with low levels of vitamin D and the risk of fracture or developing osteoporosis.
In other words, whether one took a sufficient dosage of vitamin D in their lifetime or not didn’t affect their chance of developing the condition, thus contradicting one of the vitamin’s most revered benefits.
Further still, another study, published in 2017, also found “no significant associations” between vitamin D and fracture incidents.
So if research suggests vitamin D doesn’t help with preventing and treating osteoporosis, should we really be worried about taking it in the first place?
Yes, and no. While the case for taking vitamin D for fractures might now be questionable, it’s something we’re certainly lacking.
According to Harvard Health Publications, vitamin D deficiencies are “shockingly” common in the U.S. Hair loss, depression, muscle pain, and delayed wound healing are all symptoms of vitamin D deficiencies.
“Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin, but rather a hormone,” Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, Chinese & Integrative Medicine Expert, tells Organic Authority. “The difference between them is that the body cannot make vitamins. Hormones are made in the body. We can make vitamin D, and we do that by being exposed to the sun. Our skin uses UVB radiation which in turn makes it into vitamin via the liver and kidneys.”
And since most of us spend our days chained to a desk, and not outside underneath U.V. rays, we’re not exposed to the sun long enough to reap its benefits. Fortunately, there are other ways to include vitamin D in our lifestyle, including fortified milk, and fatty fish and fish oils, like salmon and mackerel.
Dr. Trattner believes the outcome of the recent study doesn’t diminish vitamin D’s overall efficacy.
“Activated vitamin D targets over 2000 genes in the body, turning on processes that affect the entire body,” she says. “We have been walking the planet for thousands of years and we need sunlight, just like plants do to help with biological functions. One study doesn’t negate the hundreds of positive studies and meta-analysis done on the benefits of vitamin D. Most modern diseases are caused in part due to the lack of it including bones, breast, colon, and lung health.”
So whether you’re soaking up the sun or supplementing vitamin D, it’s safe to say it’s still working for your body — but perhaps not so much for your fracture risk.
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