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Vitamin D supplements won't help bones in healthy adults, review concludes

Will taking an extra dose of vitamin D help you? Seems like every month there is a new study finding health benefits for taking Vitamin D or debunking those claims.

The latest study, which involves a large analysis of 23 earlier vitamin D studies involving more than 4,000 adults with an average age of 59, found taking the supplement won't boost bone health and prevent osteoporosis.

"Most healthy adults do not need vitamin D supplements," lead researcher Dr. Ian Reid, a professor of medicine and endocrinology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said in a statement.

Osteoporosis is a disease caused by bone breaking down due to aging and puts older adults at risk for fractures, which can potentially result in death or permanent disability if they are of the spine or hip.

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, like fatty fish, but is sometimes fortified in others, such as milk. It also gets produced when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin, triggering a chemical synthesis.

People are recommended to take in about 600 IUs of vitamins a day. Three ounces of cooked salmon contains about 450 IUs, and milk contains around 120 IUs.

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Previous research suggests about 56 percent of women 60 and older -- who are at higher risk for osteoporosis -- take vitamin D supplements.

While studies looking into heart and anti-cancer benefits have found mixed results, the vitamins have been thought to boost bone health and stave off osteoporosis, because insufficient vitamin D contributes to osteoporosis by preventing the absorption of calcium, the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements notes.

The new review of earlier studies -- called a meta-analysis -- revealed very little evidence that taking vitamin D supplements for an average of two years had any effect on bone density. The only finding of statistical significance they found was a 0.8 percent increase in bone density in the femoral neck in the upper leg.

The researchers concluded only people with a diagnosed vitamin D deficiency may benefit from supplements.

The continued widespread use of vitamin D for other adults preventing osteoporosis "seems to be inappropriate," the researchers concluded.

The new study was published Oct. 10 in The Lancet.

In an accompanying editorial published in the same journal, Dr. Clifford J. Rosen of the Maine Medical Research Institute agreed with the study's conclusion, but said elderly adults should maintain their vitamin D levels to prevent hip fractures. Adults over 70 are urged to take in about 800 IUs of vitamin D a day.

In Feb. 2013, a panel of medical experts who advice the government on treatment guidelines, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, (USPSTF), also concludedtaking vitamin D supplements -- and calcium -- wouldn't reduce risk for bone fractures in women after menopause.

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