Vitamin D is one of the most widely used supplements. Doctors have long recommended it along with calcium to help prevent bone fractures. However, recent studies have cast doubt on vitamin D's benefits for healthy women.
With sales of vitamin D at an all-time high, Consumer Reports took a closer look.
Consumer Reports analyzed 32 vitamin D supplements, including 12 vitamin D and calcium combinations.
The good news is that testers found they all contained at least as much vitamin D as their labels claimed and were within the safe maximum limit set by the Institute of Medicine. And they all met federal safety standards.
But analysis of some supplements raised a red flag. Consumer Reports' lab tests found lead levels in nine of the vitamin D plus calcium supplements that exceeded a strict California limit for reproductive risk. California law requires that those be labeled, but they weren't.
Consumer Reports also found that prices varied widely. Trader Joe's Vitamin D softgels were the best deal, at just 3 cents per capsule. And Sundown Naturals Liquid-Filled Calcium Plus Vitamin D softgels cost 8 cents each.
And about whether you need extra vitamin D, Consumer Reports' medical experts examined the evidence. You probably don't need a supplement if you get some midday sun during the warmer months. But if you have osteoporosis or a gastrointestinal condition that limits absorption, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement.
And if you do opt for vitamin D, take care to stay within the recommended amounts, because too much can put you at risk for kidney damage.
A government advisory group recently recommended that healthy women past menopause not take daily vitamin D and calcium supplements at low doses to prevent fractures. And it said at higher doses, more research is needed.