Vitamin D study falls short

A pile of garbage is a pile of garbage -- and adding more trash doesn't transform it into something better.

It just makes it a bigger pile of garbage.

That's what's really behind the new study on vitamin D benefits that claims vitamin D supplements are unnecessary and don't work.

Sure, it sounds impressive when they say they used data on thousands of patients from hundreds of studies. But if the studies themselves are all flawed, then it hardly matters how many they used.

It's just a bigger pile of garbage.

In most of the studies of vitamin D benefits in the analysis, patients given supplements were given just 400 IUs per day.

If you take a vitamin D supplement yourself (and I hope you do) you know how low that is. That's lower than the 600 IUs per day recommended by the Institute of Medicine -- a level rightfully criticized as being far too low even by mainstream medical voices.

The Harvard School of Medicine, for example, recommends between 1,000 IUs and 4,000 IUs per day.

That means many patients in the new analysis were given just 10 percent of what they really need. And in the biggest study in the analysis, they didn't even get that much -- because a full 60 percent admitted they didn't take their supplements as directed.

This sounds more like a bid for attention than a scientific study. And if that was their goal, it worked, because the study is making headlines around the world.

But forget the sensationalism. Let's stick to the science -- the hundreds of studies that show the very real vitamin D  benefits supplements that these researchers managed to ignore.

For example, D supplements are so critical to bone health that clinical trials have shown they can reduce the risk of a fracture by 20 percent.

The sunshine vitamin is also so essential to your immune system that D supplements are 800 percent more effective than the flu shot -- and unlike the shot, vitamin D can prevent the common cold, too.

It's also a proven cancer fighter, forcing cancer cells to turn into ordinary cells and killing any that don't make the switch. It's so powerful against the disease that one leading expert in the UK is urging all women to take D supplements to prevent breast cancer and death from breast cancer.

He should have given the same advice to men -- because D can also protect against colorectal cancers, lung cancer, prostate cancer and more.

Vitamin D is also essential to the heart, brain and more. But if you don't get enough, you can't get the benefits.

And most people don't get nearly enough.

The best source of D is sunlight, but most people don't get enough sun exposure to make the D they need. And of course, relying on sun for D could increase the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

Since you can't get much D from food, that leaves supplements.

I recommend an absolute minimum of 2,000 IUs per day of vitamin D3, and some people may need more -- as much as 5,000 IUs per day, especially if you have darker skin or live towards the north, and especially in winter.

Your doctor can help you figure out the amount that's best for you.