Insufficient Evidence for Universal Vitamin D Screening


A new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) report has concluded there is not currently enough evidence to officially recommend screening vitamin D levels of healthy individuals. Over the last two decades, observational research has found that people with even moderately low vitamin D levels have higher risk for a range of diseases. This finding led to major increases in blood vitamin D testing, and many people were told to take vitamin D supplements. But dozens of large clinical trials have since shown that giving vitamin D supplements to generally healthy people has no effects on their health, even when they start with “insufficient” vitamin D levels and even when their blood vitamin D levels rise into “optimal” levels.

The Task Force’s review of all available research did not find any significant benefit of vitamin D treatment on mortality, bone fractures, falls, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular events, depression, physical functioning, or infection in asymptomatic adults with low vitamin D levels. (This new report is consistent with prior USPSTF recommendations that did not support use of vitamin D supplements for bone health in generally healthy men or women.)

Most of us should simply aim to get our vitamin D from the most powerful source—regular exposure to sunlight—and from food. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) up to age 70 and 800 IU for ages 70 and older (for most people, 15 to 20 minutes daily in a short-sleeve shirt). Good dietary sources include fatty fish (such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel), mushrooms grown with UV light, and foods with added vitamin D, like milk and fortified plant-based milk substitutes, juices, and breakfast cereals. For people with true vitamin D deficiency or specific disease conditions, supplements may be useful, under the guidance of a healthcare provider.



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