Research recently published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal concludes that contrary to current government guidance, taking vitamin D supplements does not have any measurable effect on bone density.

The research consists of meta-analysis conducted by Professors Mark Bolland and Andrew Grey from the University of Auckland and Professor Alison Avenell of Aberdeen University, who reviewed previous studies on the connection between vitamin D and bone mineral density, The Guardian has reported.

Current guidance from the Department of Health recommends taking vitamin D supplements during the winter months – when levels available from sunlight exposure are low. Supplements are advised in particular for those with bone conditions such as osteoporosis, which typically affects older people.

Bone density decreases as we age, but with osteoporosis, this process is accelerated, leading to chronically weakened bones which are more susceptible to breaking. The most common injuries for patients with osteoporosis are wrist, hip and vertebrae fractures. According to NHS statistics, over three million people in the UK are affected by osteoporosis, with more than 500,000 of those affected receiving hospital treatment for fractures every year.

The new published findings on vitamin D turn the current government guidance on its head. In a quote for The Guardian, Professor Bolland comments: “Our meta-analysis finds that vitamin D does not prevent fractures, falls, or improve bone mineral density, whether at high or low dose… Clinical guidelines should be changed to reflect these findings.”

Rosie Nelson, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, said: “These studies show that vitamin D supplements can no longer be relied on to protect and maintain bone health. Doctors may need to question whether they should be prescribing supplements to those at risk of developing osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions, or instead focusing on lifestyle advice to lessen the risks.

“Once an individual has developed osteoporosis, there is a far higher risk of them suffering fractures. Older people with the condition, already more prone to falling, are particularly vulnerable. For many of our clients who have sought our advice following a fall in hospital, osteoporosis and other bone disorders have put them into this high risk group.