Ancillary study of Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial finds vitamin D supplementation does not have significant impact on fracture risk

Results showed that vitamin D supplementation did not have a significant impact on fracture risk. Industry advocates are criticizing the study's protocol.

In an ancillary study1 of the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL), researchers investigated the effects of supplemental vitamin D3 on the risk of fracture. The study was made up of 25,871 participants divided into vitamin D and placebo groups. Results showed that supplementation with vitamin D3 did not have significant effect on total fractures, compared to placebo, with fractures occurring in 769 of 12,927 participants in the vitamin D group, and 782 of 12,944 participants in the placebo group.

Commenting on the results of the ancillary study, Andrea Wong, PhD, the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN; Washington, D.C.) senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs stated that vitamin D needs to work in tandem with calcium to be effectively support bone health and strength. This is because calcium, “helps build and maintain bones, while vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb calcium,” says Wong. Additionally, Wong points out, the study did not recruit subjects on the basis of vitamin D deficiency, low bone mass, or osteoporosis. Therefore, the results were based on a population that is generally healthy, and would not necessarily derive a substantial benefit from vitamin D when it comes to fracture risk.

“Despite the limitations of the ancillary study, the main VITAL findings and another ancillary study have added to the body of research on vitamin D’s impact on health, including promising results for reducing the risk of cancer-related death and autoimmune diseases. These and other important benefits have been completely ignored in the accompanying editorial, which outright dismisses vitamin D screening and supplementation,” said Wong, in a press release. “The fact remains that vitamin D is an essential nutrient that supports numerous biological functions. Dietary studies have repeatedly shown many people still fall short of obtaining adequate levels of vitamin D and may be missing out on health benefits. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies vitamin D as a ‘nutrient of public health concern.’ Advising people to stop taking vitamin D supplements when natural food sources of this nutrient are scarce and sun exposure may not be feasible for those who are most vulnerable, is a disservice to public health.”

Reference

  1. LeBoff MS et al. “Supplemental vitamin D and incident fractures in midlife and older adults.” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 387 (2022): 299-309