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- A recent meta-analysis of vitamin D supplements found that the pills don’t protect against heart disease risk like some believe they may.
- Like some prior research, the study suggests vitamin D supplements are unnecessary for healthy people.
- Other research has found vitamin D supplements can cause kidney damage and increase a person’s risk of death.
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If you’re shelling out money for vitamin D pills or are considering doing so for better health, you may want to reconsider.
A meta-analysis published June 19 in JAMA Cardiology looked at over 83,000 people in 21 previous studies, about half of whom took vitamin D supplements for over one year. Specifically, the researchers wanted to find out if the study subjects who took the supplements had a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack than the subjects who didn’t take vitamin D supplements, since some studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and poor heart health.
The researchers found, however, that people who were taking vitamin D supplements didn’t have a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack, nor were they any less likely to die of any cause. It’s important to note, however, that many of the studies the researchers included weren’t trying to find a specific link between heart disease and vitamin D consumption.
Still, the researchers write, “the findings suggest that vitamin D supplementation does not confer cardiovascular protection and is not indicated for this purpose.”
This isn’t the first study to show vitamin D supplements are unnecessary and even potentially dangerous
The meta-analysis isn’t the first time researchers have found vitamin D supplements to be ineffective for various health gains.
An April study from researchers at Tufts University looked at multiple supplements, including vitamin A, vitamin K, and zinc, and determined taking them offered no health benefits or risks, making them essentially a waste of money. But when they looked at vitamin D, they found people who took the supplement in 10 milligram daily doses, versus getting vitamin D through foods in a balanced diet, increased their overall risks for cancer and death.
“The potential harm of vitamin D supplement use among individuals without vitamin D deficiency needs to be further evaluated,” Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a co-author of the study, said in a press release.
Although uncommon, there have also been reports of vitamin D supplements causing kidney damage.
A case report in Canadian Medical Association Journal, for example, looked at a man who told doctors he had been taking between eight and 12 drops of vitamin D daily for the past 2.5 years. As a result, he had kidney problems that landed him in the hospital, and he sustained permanent kidney damage, even after treatment.
Doctors said his overconsumption of the vitamin caused his calcium blood levels to skyrocket. If a person has too much calcium in their blood, it can cause their kidneys, heart, and brain to stop working properly and make their bones weak.
The Mayo Clinic reports that consuming 60,000 IUs of vitamin D daily for multiple months can lead to toxicity, which causes nausea, vomiting, bone pain, and kidney problems. The man who overdosed had 8,000 to 12,000 IUs of vitamin D every day for years, leading to similar consequences.
Together, these recent studies and case reports suggest most people who take vitamin D supplements don’t need it. If you currently take vitamin D or are considering it, talk with your doctor.
According to the Mayo Clinic, elderly folks, people with darker skin, and those who live in places with little sunlight may benefit from vitamin D supplementation, but they too should get a professional opinion first.