Screening for vitamin D deficiency: a systematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Ann Intern Med. 2015 Jan 20;162(2):109-22. doi: 10.7326/M14-1659.


Background: Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with adverse health outcomes.

Purpose: To systematically review benefits and harms of vitamin D screening in asymptomatic adults.

Data sources: Ovid MEDLINE (through the third week of August 2014), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Study selection: Randomized trials of screening for and treatment of vitamin D deficiency and case-control studies nested within the Women's Health Initiative.

Data extraction: One investigator abstracted data, a second reviewed data for accuracy, and 2 investigators independently assessed study quality using predefined criteria.

Data synthesis: No study examined the effects of vitamin D screening versus no screening on clinical outcomes. Vitamin D treatment was associated with decreased mortality versus placebo or no treatment (11 studies; risk ratio [RR], 0.83 [95% CI, 0.70 to 0.99]), although benefits were no longer seen after trials of institutionalized persons were excluded (8 studies; RR, 0.93 [CI, 0.73 to 1.18]). Vitamin D treatment was associated with possible decreased risk for having at least 1 fall (5 studies; RR, 0.84 [CI, 0.69 to 1.02]) and falls per person (5 studies; incidence rate ratio, 0.66 [CI, 0.50 to 0.88]) but not fractures (5 studies; RR, 0.98 [CI, 0.82 to 1.16]). Vitamin D treatment was not associated with a statistically significant increased risk for serious adverse events (RR, 1.17 [CI, 0.74 to 1.84]).

Limitation: Variability across studies in 25-hydroxyvitamin D assays and baseline levels, treatment doses, use of calcium, and duration of follow-up.

Conclusion: Treatment of vitamin D deficiency in asymptomatic persons might reduce mortality risk in institutionalized elderly persons and risk for falls but not fractures.

Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Institutionalization
  • Mass Screening*
  • Mortality
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Vitamin D / adverse effects
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / drug therapy


  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D
  • Calcium