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October 2022

Does Vitamin D Help Prevent Fractures?

It depends. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for strong bones, but a recent article is highlighting some nuance to the use of supplements. Given much of the general buzz about vitamin D, patients might see some confusing headlines and ask about it. So, when is a vitamin D supplement helpful?

Taking vitamin D supplements only seems to prevent fractures in people with existing osteoporosis, not in older adults without osteoporosis. This might surprise some patients, but this actually isn’t new – the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) states that there is inconclusive evidence regarding the use of vitamin D supplements, with or without calcium, for the prevention of fractures in community dwelling adults who do not have osteoporosis. Additionally, the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF) simply recommends adequate intake of both vitamin D and calcium (preferably from foods) in people with or without osteoporosis - they don’t recommend taking higher doses. Vitamin D supplements are only recommended for those with low blood levels.

But this doesn’t mean vitamin D isn’t important. Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is necessary for everyone - most people can maintain these levels through the diet and by spending 15-20 minutes in the sun each day. If patients are concerned that they don’t get enough, healthcare providers can check blood levels to see if they are truly insufficient. If they are, taking 400 IU of a vitamin D supplement daily is likely safe. Encourage your older patients to exercise regularly and to maintain a balanced diet. For those at increased risk for fractures, continue to recommend consuming the Recommended Dietary Amounts (RDA) from foods. For more information on the RDA and foods rich in these nutrients, check our Vitamin D-Rich Foods chart. Also review our recently updated vitamin D monograph to learn more.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2022 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.