Vitamin D supplements are widely prescribed and used to promote bone health. However, the definitive data on whether these supplements actually reduce bone fractures in the general population is inconsistent.
To improve scientific understanding of this topic, a team of scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted an additional study at the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL), a clinical trial involving more than 25,000 adults, also led by researchers of the Brigham. A total of 1,991 incident fractures in 1,551 participants were confirmed over a median follow-up of 5.3 years.
“Overall, the results of this large clinical trial support the use of vitamin D supplements to reduce fractures in generally healthy American men and women.” — Meryl LeBoff, MD
According to the findings, supplemental vitamin D3 (2000 IU/day) did not reduce total, non-vertebral or hip fractures compared to placebo. In addition, there were no effects of supplemental vitamin D3 on major osteoporotic fractures, wrist fractures, or pelvic fractures. In the analysis, effects were not modified by age, gender, race, body mass index, baseline vitamin D blood levels, and personal use of supplemental calcium and/or vitamin D.
“In general, the results of this large clinical trial do not support the use of vitamin D supplements to reduce fractures in generally healthy American men and women,” said lead author Meryl LeBoff, MD, chief of the calcium and bone section in the endocrine department at the Brigham.
“These findings do not apply to adults with vitamin D deficiency or low bone mass or osteoporosis. Most of the trial participants were not deficient and may have already reached the vitamin D level needed for bone health.” Our ongoing studies focus on whether free vitamin D levels or genetic variation in vitamin D absorption, metabolism or receptor function will provide information about individuals who may benefit from supplemental vitamin D for musculoskeletal health.”
“While VITAL was originally designed to look at cardiovascular and cancer outcomes, this is a wonderful example of how it has shed light on health outcomes far beyond its original goals,” said JoAnn Manson, MD, co-author and head of the study. Department of Preventive Medicine at Brigham.
Reference: “Supplementary Vitamin D and Incident Fractions in Middle-aged and Older Adults” by Meryl S. LeBoff, MD, Sharon H. Chou, MD, Kristin A. Ratliff, BA, Nancy R. Cook, Sc.D., Bharti Khurana , MD, Eunjung Kim, MS, Peggy M. Cawthon, Ph.D., MPH, Douglas C. Bauer, MD, Dennis Black, Ph.D., J. Chris Gallagher, MD, I-Min Lee, MB, BS , Sc.D., Julie E. Buring, Sc.D., and JoAnn E. Manson, MD, Dr.PH, Jul 28, 2022, New England Journal of Medicine.
Funding: NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases