Experts Report Little Certainty in Vitamin D’s Potential Benefits

The Endocrine Society’s new scientific statement says current evidence doesn’t support using vitamin D to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or metabolic syndrome. (Image: Michael-Merck/

Endocrinologists have weighed in on vitamin D’s potential health benefits beyond keeping bones strong, saying there’s more uncertainty than proof that the steroid hormone reduces cancer incidence, cardiovascular disease risk, or risks for type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome.

But in a new scientific statement released online today, the Endocrine Society indicated that vitamin D might be useful in treating skin disorders such as psoriasis and in reducing the risk that people who take calcium supplements but still have low vitamin D levels would be injured in a fall.

“The role of vitamin D supplementation in the prevention and treatment of chronic nonskeletal diseases remains to be determined,” said Clifford Rosen, MD, chair of the task force that wrote the statement, in a news release. “We need large randomized controlled trials and dose-response data to test the effects of vitamin D on chronic disease outcomes including autoimmunity, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease,” added Rosen, also a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

The Endocrine Society said the new statement is the first comprehensive evaluation of the basic science and clinical evidence related to the nonskeletal effects of vitamin D. The authors evaluated observational studies and randomized controlled trials that analyzed the effects of vitamin D on epidermal, neuromuscular, maternal/fetal, and neoplastic tissues. Conclusions in the statement include the following:

• Topical or oral vitamin D may help treat psoriasis, but more evidence is needed to determine its efficacy in treating other skin disorders or preventing skin cancer.

• No strong evidence exists to support the theory that vitamin D supplements reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes or the metabolic syndrome.

• Clinical trial evidence does not support taking vitamin D supplements to lower cardiovascular disease risk.

• Observational studies linking vitamin D with reduced cancer incidence are strongest for colorectal cancer but weak or inconsistent for breast, prostate, and all cancers combined.

The statement will be published in the June issue of the Endocrine Society’s Endocrine Reviews.

Categories: Cardiovascular Disease/Myocardial Infarction, Nutritional and Metabolic Disorders, Oncology, Public Health