Despite all its good press of late, vitamin D’s health benefits have been challenged recently, most notably in an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report at the tail end of 2010 and in a Perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine yesterday (link). That the two papers have similar conclusions – vitamin D has bone health benefits but no demonstrated benefits for chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer – isn’t too surprising. The latest Perspective paper was written by three of the committee members on the earlier IOM report.
In our response to that IOM paper we wrote that:
The IOM report takes a typically conservative approach to assessing studies of potential benefits and potential risks related to vitamin D intake, as well as to the blood levels of vitamin D that qualify as “sufficient.” Such an approach often minimizes potential benefits while highlighting potential risks. This can help safeguard the nation’s health from the zeitgeist of diet crazes, but when it comes to vitamin D it seems more like a missed opportunity. (Are the New Recommendations on Vitamin D a Missed Opportunity?)
In a nutshell, this captures our thoughts on the Perspective paper as well, which focuses on the potential links between vitamin D and cancer risk.
Looking at colon cancer alone, there is good evidence that people with higher circulating vitamin D levels can have as little as half the risk of developing colon cancer as those with lower vitamin D levels (International Agency for Research on Cancer 2008).
For a supplement that has a lot of potential benefit and little risk at levels that could bring this benefit, do we really need to wait 5 or more years until more definitive data might be available?
Related CNiC Posts
Are the New Recommendations on Vitamin D a Missed Opportunity?
International Agency for Research on Cancer (2008). Vitamin D and Cancer. Lyon, International Agency for Research on Cancer.