Vitamin D VITAL for health—study, editorial a disservice to Americans seeking better health

JULY 28, 2022

WASHINGTON—The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, today responded to the results of an ancillary study of the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Statement by Andrea Wong, Ph.D., CRN senior vice president scientific and regulatory affairs:

“Vitamin D and calcium work in tandem to support bone health—calcium helps build and maintain bones, while vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb calcium. So, these secondary study results are not surprising since VITAL was designed to assess vitamin D supplementation alone and did not include or control for calcium supplementation and intake. It seems obvious that investigating one without the other would produce disappointing results.

“Further, the study focused only on generally healthy midlife or older adults instead of individuals with vitamin D deficiency, low bone mass, or osteoporosis who may be more vulnerable to fractures and derive a benefit from vitamin D supplementation. The odds were stacked against this ancillary study before it even started.

“Despite the limitations of the ancillary study, the main VITAL findings and another ancillary study have added to the body of research on vitamin D’s impact on health, including promising results for reducing the risk of cancer-related death and autoimmune diseases. These and other important benefits have been completely ignored in the accompanying editorial, which outright dismisses vitamin D screening and supplementation. 

“The fact remains that vitamin D is an essential nutrient that supports numerous biological functions. Dietary studies have repeatedly shown many people still fall short of obtaining adequate levels of vitamin D and may be missing out on health benefits. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies vitamin D as a ‘nutrient of public health concern.’ Advising people to stop taking vitamin D supplements when natural food sources of this nutrient are scarce and sun exposure may not be feasible for those who are most vulnerable, is a disservice to public health.

“People should discuss with their health care practitioner whether testing their vitamin D levels or supplementing with vitamin D is appropriate.”

The CRN Foundation’s “Vitamin D & Me!” website includes more information on the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency as well as a library of scientific research on vitamin D.

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing more than 200 dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements and food in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics. For more information, visit www.crnusa.org. Follow us on Twitter @CRN_Supplements and LinkedIn.