The press is full of Professor Ian Reid’s meta-analysis showing vitamin D does not help osteoporosis. Some of the press has been reporting that there is no benefit of vitamin D at all, instead of reporting there is no benefit on osteoporosis.
The basis of Dr Reid’s meta-analysis is that in research to date, vitamin D hasn’t had an appreciable effect on bone mineral density. I think while vitamin D might have a beneficial effect on bone mineral density (not major however), this will always be hard to study and any positive trials will be drowned out by trials not executed perfectly.
When managing osteoporosis, we also need to think about falls and fractures prevention, something not covered in Dr Reid’s meta-analysis. It is also something the press lacks perspective to be able to cover. The United States Preventative Services Task Force recommended vitamin D to prevent falls in May of 2012. Since falls lead to fractures in 5% of cases, vitamin D is important for the prevention of fractures and thus important in osteoporosis. Two meta-analyses to date have found vitamin D prevents fractures.
In terms of bone health, I think the co-nutrient status is particularly important. If one generates a list of what nutrients bone needs and a list of what nutrients American are often deficient in and see where the two lists significantly overlap, one comes up with potential deficiencies in magnesium, boron, silica, zinc and vitamin K2. Furthermore, this does not include the bone degrading chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis due in part to potassium deficiency that is so common in today’s society. Bone needs much more than vitamin D.
Editor’s note: This article was edited on 10/18/13 to remove comment from Dr Robert Heaney. It needed to be removed due to copyright rules.