Vitamin D supplements - health-promoting or money-making?
A widespread undersupply of vitamin D has been reported recently. For example, a study on adult health in Germany (DEGS) showed that the supply of vitamin D is inadequate in around 60 percent of the population. Many people therefore take vitamin D capsules - to the great delight of various pharmaceutical companies, because trading in vitamin D supplements has long been a multi-million dollar business. Are the pills money-making or a sensible food supplement?
The studies and assessments of renowned institutes are used by some companies as advertising messages to motivate customers to buy the vitamins. With success, because sales of vitamin supplements, especially vitamin D capsules, have increased significantly, as the "ARD" reported in its magazine "plusminus". According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds, the number of vitamin D tests has increased dramatically. In 2010 there were a million tests, in 2016 the number was around 4.5 million.
Miracle cure vitamin preparation?
The supposed miracle pills sell like "hot cakes" to general practitioners and pharmacies. A look at the sales figures shows an immense increase. According to the German Pharmacy Association, sales of prescription-only medicinal products rose from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.7 million (2016) in just two years. Over-the-counter products grew from 5.5 million to 7.1 million packages sold in the same period. A total turnover of 179 million euros was generated in 2016 alone.
Difference between lack and undersupply
The RKI clarifies on its website about common errors on the topic of “vitamin D deficiency”. Accordingly, one speaks of a deficiency only when clinically relevant symptoms appear. In the case of severe vitamin D deficiency, these include symptoms such as decalcification of the bones, skeletal deformities in children (rickets), osteomalacia (bone softening) in adults, and muscle and bone pain (bone loss or osteoporosis). However, inadequate care is often equated with a deficiency. This error is also used specifically in advertising messages.
Does it make sense to take vitamin D supplements?
Dietary supplements with vitamin D are far from advisable for all people. "A general recommendation for supplementation in addition to nutrition cannot currently be given," writes the RKI. If in doubt, a doctor has to decide on the need for additional vitamin tablets. According to the RKI, certain groups of people, such as older people with severe to moderate vitamin D deficiency as well as bedridden people or people with dark skin, could benefit from preparations. However, further studies are needed for precise clarification.
Compare to iodine deficiency
Birgit Niemann from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) comments on the topic: "We expressly disagree with the fact that there is a comprehensive vitamin D deficiency in Germany," she explains to the news agency dpa. One can only speak of a deficiency when people have the corresponding symptoms. Widespread deficiency symptoms used to exist with iodine, for example. But that's not the case with vitamin D, says Niemann.
There is room for improvement in care
So it is clear that most people cannot speak of a deficiency. However, many people do not reach the recommended dose. "There is still room for improvement in many vitamins," says Niemann. And vitamin D is one of them.
Healthy adults do nothing for vitamin D pills
Stiftung Warentest also reported on the preparations in March 2018 and came to the conclusion: "According to the current knowledge, taking vitamin D preparations cannot prevent cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular disease." According to the foundation, taking vitamin -D pills are not associated with health benefits in healthy and active adults.
25 minutes of fresh air
There is an inexpensive solution for people with too little vitamin D. According to current recommendations of the RKI, the need can be largely covered by regular outdoor stays. Niemann also shares this recommendation: “25 minutes a day is enough.” Care should be taken to expose around a third of the body to the sun. However, you shouldn't risk sunburn while soaking up the sun, warns the RKI.
Intake vitamin D through food
It is difficult to get enough vitamin D through food, because only a few foods are good suppliers of vitamin D. Still, with healthy foods along with regular outdoor stays, most people's need for vitamin D can be met. According to the RKI, the following dishes are suitable for vitamin D intake:
- Oily fish such as herring, eel, salmon or mackerel,
- Mushrooms such as mushrooms, porcini or chanterelles,
- Butter and margarine,