What Does Vitamin D Do? Not Much, Study Finds

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Known as the Sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it when we come into contact with sunlight, the popularity of vitamin D supplements has grown exponentially in recent years. But now, it turns out we may not need them anyway. A new study published by The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal shows that vitamin D supplements failed to significantly reduce the risk of death, heart disease, cancer, and stroke among study participants.

Vitamin D is a nutrient needed for general health and to maintain strong bones. It does so by helping the body absorb calcium, a major component of bones, from food and supplements. Despite being found in food, vitamin D is not found in much but fatty fish — hence the ease with which the supplements industry has sold it to us as a necessary 'top-up.'

Celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow has talked at length about her vitamin D deficiency, and has helped educate the public on the dangers of low levels. Paltrow suffers from osteopenia, a severe thinning of the bones, but despite making it clear she'd simply been told to spend more time in the sunshine, stories from other celebrities who take supplements only popularize the supplements.

Part of the problem, researchers note, is the identification of vitamin D deficiency seen in patients with many disorders, including cancer, hip fracture, and mortality. The presumption has been that taking pills was necessary to combat the deficiency.