USPSTF: Routine Vitamin D Screening Unwarranted

(HealthDay News) — The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to weigh the benefits and harms of vitamin D deficiency screening in asymptomatic adults. 

These findings form the basis of a final recommendation statement published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Erin S. LeBlanc, MD, MPH, from Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Oregon, and colleagues conducted a systematic review to examine the benefits and harms of screening for vitamin D deficiency in asymptomatic adults.

There were no studies that examined the impact of vitamin D screening vs. no screening on clinical outcomes, the researchers found. 

Compared with placebo or no treatment, vitamin D treatment was associated with decreased mortality (11 studies; risk ratio=0.83; 95% CI, 0.70-0.99), although after trials of institutionalized people were excluded, the benefits were no longer observed (eight studies, risk ratio=0.93; 95% CI, 0.73-1.18). There was no significantly increased risk for serious adverse events with vitamin D treatment. 

“Treatment of vitamin D deficiency in asymptomatic persons might reduce mortality risk in institutionalized elderly persons and risk for falls but not fractures,” the task force wrote.

On the basis of these findings, the USPSTF concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to weigh the balance of benefits and harms of screening.

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

In an accompanying editorial, Robert P. Heaney, MD, and Laura A. G. Armas, MD, offered clinical insight into the USPSTF’s conclusions. 

“One must ask whether treating without first testing is sound practice. Certainly, it would be rational to do so if the condition being treated is prevalent and the treatment is safe and inexpensive. That is the case with another micronutrient, iodine, and the iodination of salt. However, the current situation is different because getting sufficient iodine generally does not require conscious adherence to a particular regimen, whereas taking vitamin D does,” they wrote.


  1. LeBlanc ES et al. Ann Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.7326/M14-1659.
  2. LeFevre ML et al. Ann Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.7326/M14-2450.
  3. Heaney RP and Armas LAG. Ann Intern Med. 2014;doi:10.7326/M14-2573.