Vitamin D Wars

     Given the many news reports of published studies showing much benefit from the use of Vitamin D, people might reasonably conclude that a consensus had emerged favouring its use. Vitamin D has been around for decades. Official bodies like Health Canada have found sufficient evidence to rule on its efficacy, safety and side-effects. At the official Eat Right Ontario website it states “recently, the recommended amounts for Vitamin D increased for people of all ages”. For older children and adults from 600 I.U. to 4000 I.U. per day.

     On the day of writing news reports find “Treating Vitamin D Deficiency In Children With Type 1 Improves Glycemic Control”. Then, “Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Dementia”. And, “Vitamin D may be simple treatment to enhance burn healing”. Plus, “Vitamin D may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, suggests study”. Not bad for one day.

     However, there are parties campaigning to provide Health Canada with a basis to turn Vitamin D into a restricted prescription drug. This would effectively block consumers from having access to this nutrient and would incidentally raise the price of it dramatically.

     A spearpoint of this campaign is a recent study conducted at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. This study was focused on the use of Vitamin D during pregnancy and reviewed the many other studies that have been published on this subject. Note that no new investigations took place. Just criticism of 38 other studies. The Sick Kids authors conclude that most such studies “were small and of low quality”. One wonders how so much bad research passed peer review. One wonders why regulatory authorities have accepted these ‘tainted’ studies in judging Vitamin D.

     Because the Sick Kids researchers are campaigning to overturn the dosage recommendations for the use of Vitamin D during pregnancy which as note above is 4000 I.U. per day. Their study basically says there is no substantial benefit from taking Vitamin D and “there is currently insufficient evidence to guide prenatal vitamin supplementation recommendations”. This study does not find much harm from taking Vitamin D, just that it’s worthless and unproven. For decades, Vitamin D was officially worthwhile and proven. 

     Normally, a study like this would attract no attention. Sick Kids is no place to be conducting a meta-analysis of other studies. And the conclusions belie even the reports cited such as the authoritative Cochrane review metaanalysis which found favourably about Vitamin D use during pregnancy.

     Yet somehow, major media are trumpeting this one study and not all the others which find benefit and safety. The CBC on December 1, 2017 boldly announces “there is insufficient evidence to guide recommendations on vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy”. No less than Forbes Magazine finds this obscure study to be compelling: “the research overall is so thin and riddled with weaknesses that it’s not possible to draw any firm conclusions8”. This is very unusual treatment for such a story and it means ‘someone is pushing’.

     Consider the following: First from the American Pregnancy Association: “It is unlikely your prenatal vitamin contains enough vitamin D. A recent study has found women found taking 4,000 I.U of vitamin D daily had the greatest benefits in preventing pre-term labor/ births and infections”. Or, BabyCentre Canada which recommends a “minimum of 600 IU (15 mcg) and a maximum of 4000 IU (100 mcg)”. Or the Vitamin D Council which cites “In two recent studies from the University of South Carolina, a group of researchers found that pregnant women need to take 4,000 IU of vitamin D everyday”. One wonders what the Sick Kids crowd were reading.

     Vitamin D has been officially regulated for decades supposedly on firm scientific evidence. As long as it was a small amount of Vitamin D with few benefits researches like those at Sick Kids were OK with it. Now, that much more research has found a much greater range of benefits, only now do Sick Kids class researchers declare it’s all rubbish and we have to go back to square one and do a lot more studies. And as ever, a lot of studies means regulation.