Giving vitamin D supplements to healthy children with normal vitamin D levels does not improve bone density at the hip, lumbar spine, forearm or in the body as a whole, according to a new Cochrane Systematic Review.
Building bone density in children helps protect against osteoporosis in later life. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from food, reduces losses of calcium from the body and encourages calcium deposition into bone. Bone density is a major measure of bone strength and measures the amount of bone mineral present at different sites.
“By measuring bone density, you can assess how well an intervention such as vitamin D supplementation improves bone health,” study leader Tania Winzenberg, PhD, from the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, Hobart, stated in a press release.
The researchers set out to discover whether boosting levels of vitamin D in healthy children encouraged their bones to lay down greater amounts of calcium. They searched existing literature for carefully conducted randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of giving vitamin D supplements versus placebo. They found six studies that together involved 343 participants receiving placebo and 541 receiving vitamin D. All participants had taken vitamin D or the placebo for at least 3 months and were between 1 month and 19 years old.
“Vitamin D supplementation had no statistically significant effects on bone density at any site in healthy children. There was, however, some indication that children who had low levels of vitamin D in their blood might benefit from supplementation,” Winzenberg stated. “We now need randomized controlled studies focused on vitamin D deficient children to confirm if vitamin D supplements would help this particular group.”