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Women on HRT Helped by Extra Calcium, Vitamin D?

Study found hip fracture rate was 57 percent lower in those also taking supplements

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The researchers weren't able to tease out whether vitamin D or calcium had any benefits on their own. All of the women who took one supplement also took the other.

The study also was unable to find an optimal dose to help prevent hip fracture, although it appeared that women with a calcium intake of 1,200 milligrams and higher (from diet and supplements) might garner more benefit, Robbins said. The researchers saw a similar trend in lower hip fracture rates for women with higher vitamin D intake.

"In moderation, I think there's relatively little risk of harm from calcium or vitamin D," Robbins said.

"If a woman is taking hormones and other bone-enhancing drugs, she should also take calcium and vitamin D supplements in moderation or get them from dietary sources," he said.

Dr. Jill Rabin, chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., agreed that there doesn't appear to be a significant downside to taking these supplements if a woman doesn't have side effects, such as constipation, from taking them.

"We can get a lot of calcium from our diet, and that's probably the best way to get it," Rabin said. "But if you can take a supplement without ill effects, you can certainly continue. And women considering taking hormone therapy might also want to add supplements."

But, she added, the question of whether vitamin D and calcium can provide a significant reduction in fracture risk in women still needs more study. "The question hasn't been answered yet," she said.

As for hormone therapy, which is often prescribed for symptoms of menopause, doctors recommend the lowest possible dose for a short period of time. Use of hormone therapy has been linked to a variety of health problems, including risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots, according to the USPSTF.

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