Vitamin D, Calcium for Elderly Questioned
Studies Show No Bone Fracture Prevention From Vitamin D/Calcium in High-Risk Seniors
April 27, 2005 -- Two new studies question whether vitamin D and calcium
supplements can protect mobile, high-risk, over-70 seniors against future
Earlier studies showed that vitamin D and calcium supplements reduced the
risks of fractures in elderly women.
But two new studies fail to show a fracture prevention effect for the
popular dietary supplements in the elderly.
Adrian Grant, MD, director of the Health Services Research Unit at the
University of Aberdeen, Scotland, studied 5,292 elderly, mostly female patients
who already had a fracture. During two to five years of follow-up, those taking
vitamin D and calcium supplements had no fewer new fractures than those who
didn't take supplements. The study appears in the April 28 online edition of
David Torgerson, PhD, director of the York Trials Unit at the University of
York, England, headed the other study, which followed 3,314 women who were
frail, in poor health, or who had previous fractures. Over two years, those
taking the supplements had no fewer fractures than those who did not. The study
appears in the April 30 issue of the British Medical Journal.
"If you are at risk of bone loss and fracture, you need something else
other than calcium and vitamin D to reduce your risk," Torgerson tells
WebMD. "If you are reasonably healthy and have reasonable diet, there is no
reason to waste your money on calcium or vitamin D supplements."
"Although vitamin D and calcium won't do any serious harm, it does
require taking something every day and it does have a cost," Grant tells
WebMD. "We know there are other approaches that can prevent further
fractures. So if people are at high risk, they may wish to seek a doctor's
advice on bone-active treatments."
Americans up to age 50 are advised to take 200 IU (international units) of
vitamin D daily. From ages 51 to 70, the advised dose is 400 IU. For people
over age 70, it's 600 IU. Vitamin helps promote the The recommended intake for adults over the age of 50 is
1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.
Modest but Important Vitamin D, Calcium Effects Missed?
What should seniors make of these new findings? Not too much, argues Philip
Sambrook of the Institute of Bone & Joint Research in Sydney, Australia, in
a Lancet editorial accompanying the Grant study.
Sambrook notes that more than a third of the participants in the Grant study
did not take their calcium/vitamin D supplements as they were supposed to.
"Overall, the data are still consistent with a therapeutic benefit of
vitamin D on fractures in people deficient in vitamin D," Sambrook
He also says since vitamin D levels were not assessed at the start of the
study it is not clear what effects might be expected in vitamin D-replete