A recently published study has erroneously concluded that Vitamin D does not prevent fractures. Media outlets worldwide have grabbed onto this headline and published it uncritically.
Today, we'll debunk this study, so you understand exactly where and how it went wrong.
Then you'll learn about the steps you need to take to ensure Vitamin D provides its full bone-protective effect.
A Vitamin D Study That Missed The Mark
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is based on an analysis of data from a prior study called the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL).
This prior study, VITAL, involved 25,871 participants, about half of whom were women 55 years of age or older. They were divided into two groups. One group took 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day, and the other took a placebo.
Over five years, the participants completed annual follow-up questionnaires about their health, medical events, and how consistently they took the Vitamin D supplement. That follow-up questionnaire prompted participants to report fractures they experienced during the study period.
The secondary study published in NEJM used this data about fractures to compare the fracture rates between the Vitamin D group and the placebo group. They found there was not a statistically significant difference, and used the data to proclaim that Vitamin D supplementation did not reduce the risk of fracture.1
However, that conclusion is fundamentally flawed.
The study we're examining today is based on data from a prior study in which 25,871 participants took either 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 or a placebo each day for five years. Participants completed yearly questionnaires about certain health information, including fractures. The two groups didn't have significantly different rates of fracture, leading the researchers to the flawed conclusion that Vitamin D supplementation didn’t prevent fractures.
Why This Study's Conclusion Doesn't Add Up
Unfortunately, not every published study provides a useful or even reasonable conclusion. Often that's because the methodology of the study includes mistakes and oversights. This study is one of them. Let's have a look at some of the reasons why this study's methodology didn't provide adequate evidence to reach the conclusions claimed by the study authors.
- The study did not test all of the participants' Vitamin D levels before, during, or after the study period. That means the researchers didn't know whether the participants had a deficiency that could be corrected by supplementation in the first place.
- It is impossible to know the impact of reaching sufficient vitamin D levels in a group of participants who may or may not already have sufficient vitamin D levels at the start of the study. For example, if most of the participants were Vitamin D deficient, then the supplementation may have not been sufficient.
- More than 10 percent of the placebo group reported they were independently taking additional Vitamin D supplements. That compromises the placebo group and makes all of the results inconclusive.1
- This study makes a classic mistake of the medical establishment: a failure to consider the body holistically. Vitamin D doesn't have its full impact in isolation, it works synergistically with other micronutrients. Studying whether Vitamin D in isolation has an effect ignores the fact that Vitamin D, like other micronutrients, works in coordination with other micronutrients to have its full effect.
- This study doesn't consider the diet or exercise habits of participants. These additional factors greatly impact whether Vitamin D supplementation is useful. Similar to supplementing with other micronutrients, these factors interact to create benefits. One action in isolation can’t impactfully improve overall health and bone health.
The study made several mistakes that invalidate its conclusions. The researchers had no data about participants' Vitamin D levels before, during, or after the study period; participants in the placebo group were taking Vitamin D independently; and the authors don't consider the interaction between Vitamin D and other micronutrients, diet, and exercise.
Vitamin D Doesn't Work In Isolation
The vitamins and minerals in your diet and supplements are not isolated actors, each performing a different role in your health. They interact in complex and profound ways that result in a healthy body and mind.
There are many well-documented examples of the way Vitamin D functions primarily in coordination with other micronutrients. The most well-known example for Savers is the way Vitamin D and calcium work together. Without Vitamin D, our bodies are unable to absorb an adequate quantity of calcium to build our bones. Many studies have shown that without Vitamin D, a calcium supplement simply isn't effective.2
Similarly, research has found that Vitamin D and Vitamin K interact with each other alongside calcium to have a larger combined impact on bone mineral content than they would separately.3
In fact, Vitamin D is a well-known collaborator. Here are some of the other elements and compounds that Vitamin D works with to improve your health:
- Selenium – This trace mineral enhances the levels of Vitamin D active in your cells, which supports immune and cardiac function.
- Zinc – Similar to its relationship with calcium, Vitamin D improves the body's ability to absorb zinc, so it can play it many roles including immune support and anti-inflammatory action.
- Boron – Our body uses boron to increase the enzymes that activate Vitamin D, and they work together to decrease bone loss and balance hormones.
- Magnesium – Vitamin D allows magnesium to be absorbed in the gut, and in turn, magnesium regulates the ability of Vitamin D to function in cells.
- Melatonin – Vitamin D works with melatonin to protect the body against viruses.
- Probiotics – Vitamin D aids probiotics to protect the intestinal tract and promoting gut health.
Vitamin D, like other micronutrients, doesn't act alone. Along with other supplements, a varied diet, and regular exercise the Save Institute recommends the standard recommendation of 2000 IU per day of Vitamin D.
Unlike the study we examined today, we also recommend checking your vitamin D levels so you can adjust your intake dosage accordingly. Someone deficient would need to take more than the daily standard recommendation.
Vitamin D provides a wide variety of health benefits through its interaction with other vitamins, minerals, and compounds. Notably, it works with calcium, Vitamin K, selenium, zinc, boron, magnesium, melatonin, and probiotics to perform various useful functions. Take 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily, or more if testing reveals deficient Vitamin D levels.
What This Means To You
Vitamin D is a crucial part of preventing fractures and rebuilding bone. But it can't do it alone. We already knew that.
That's why the Osteoporosis Reversal Program recommends a full slate of Foundation Supplements to ensure you're getting the vitamins and minerals you need in addition to those in your varied and bone-healthy pH-balanced diet.
Don't let simplistic and short-sighted studies distract you from the big picture. A holistic approach to health allows you to account for the complexities of the human body and to provide your body with everything you need to live the full life you deserve.