Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Protect against Fractures, Meta-Analysis Finds

By Perry, Susan | MinnPost.com, January 3, 2018 | Go to article overview

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Protect against Fractures, Meta-Analysis Finds


Perry, Susan, MinnPost.com


The use of calcium and vitamin D supplements does not appear to protect older adults from breaking their hips or other bones, according to a major new study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study, a meta-analysis, examined data from 33 randomized clinical trials (considered the gold standard in research) published within the past decade. Each trial compared the use of supplements (calcium, vitamin D or a combination of the two) with a placebo or no treatment to determine if the supplements had any effect on preventing new fractures.

A total of 51,145 adults over age 50 took part in the 33 trials. The participants lived on their own in their communities and not in institutions, such as nursing homes or other residential-care facilities.

After diving deeply into all that data, the authors of the meta-analysis concluded that people taking calcium and/or vitamin D supplements were no less likely to experience a hip or other fracture than those who didn’t take them.

That finding held even when the researchers adjusted for the participants’ gender, past history of bone fractures, the amount of calcium in their diet, and the amount of vitamin D in their blood when they enrolled in the clinical trial. Nor did the amount of calcium or vitamin D in the supplements (if they were taking them) make a difference.

The meta-analysis also found that people with at least 20 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D in their blood — an amount considered healthy — were at an increased risk of hip fracture if they subsequently started taking vitamin D supplements. The reason for this association was unclear, the study’s authors write.

Need for a change

“It is time to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements for the community-dwelling older adults,” Dr. Jia-Guo Zhao, the study’s lead author and a researcher in the department of orthopedic surgery at Tianjin Hospital in China, told Reuters News.

“The guidelines should be changed,” he added. “We think that improving the lifestyle, getting enough exercise and enough sunshine, and adjusting the diet may be more important than taking these supplements. …

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