We keep hearing that Vitamin D is great for our health. So what to make of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s report last week that most of us shouldn’t take Vitamin D supplements, at least not if we’re trying to prevent cancer or bone fractures?
The task force issued a draft recommendation based on its review of the scientific literature. Using the customary plain language of evidence-based science, the report (and its consumer-friendly summary) finds, in short: “For cancer, the Task Force found there isn’t enough information to say whether supplements can prevent cancer. For fractures, the science tells us there is no benefit in taking vitamin D and calcium supplements at low doses to prevent fractures in post-menopausal women. There isn’t enough information to say whether the supplements prevent fractures in men and in premenopausal women, or whether they prevent fractures in post-menopausal women if taken in higher doses.”
In light of those findings, even the relatively small risk of kidney stones that supplementation with 400 International Units of Vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day poses is viewed as outweighing any potential benefits.
However, the draft recommendation notes that there’s evidence that taking Vitamin D supplements can help people older than 65 who are at increased risk of falling. Since many fractures result from falls, Vitamin D supplements may be seen as indirectly contributing to reduced fracture risk.
The Institute of Medicine issued a report in November 2010 saying adults should consume 600 IU of Vitamin D (800 IU for those older than 70) and 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily.
The task force’s draft recommendations are open to public comment through July 10.