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Task Force Finds Insufficient Evidence on Screening for Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults

More research needed to assess harms and benefits

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published a final recommendation statement and evidence summary on screening for vitamin D deficiency in adults. The group concluded that there is not enough evidence to determine whether the benefits outweigh the harms of screening adults for vitamin D deficiency.

This recommendation applies to generally healthy adults who do not have signs or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. It does not apply to people who have conditions that require extra vitamin D, pregnant women, or people who live in a nursing home.

“The task force recognizes the increasing interest in how vitamin D impacts health. However, there is not enough clear evidence at this time for us to recommend for or against screening for vitamin D deficiency,” said member Linda Baumann, PhD, RN.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for keeping bones healthy. Levels can become too low if an individual doesn’t eat enough vitamin D–rich foods, has very little exposure to sunlight, or has health conditions that prevent the body from absorbing or using vitamin D.

The task force identified a number of areas where additional research is needed to make a future recommendation for or against vitamin D deficiency screening. For example, more research is needed to build a clearer understanding of how to define vitamin D deficiency, and to determine the accuracy of screening tests.

In 2010, a report by the Institute of Medicine concluded that vitamin D was essential for bone health but did not find that a deficiency causes disease. The institute recommends 600 mg/day for adults younger than 70 years of age and 800 mg/day for older people.

A recent study in the British Medical Journal based on medical records from 95,766 people in Denmark found that reduced vitamin D levels increased the risk of mortality by 30% and boosted the risk of cancer-related deaths by 40%. However, the researchers found no link between vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular deaths.

The new recommendation from the USPSTF was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, as well as on the group’s website. A draft version of the recommendation was made available for public comment in July 2014.

Sources: USPSTF; November 25, 2014; and MedicalXpress; November 25, 2014.

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