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Vitamin D, Calcium for Elderly Questioned

Studies Show No Bone Fracture Prevention From Vitamin D/Calcium in High-Risk Seniors
WebMD Health News

April 27, 2005 -- Two new studies question whether vitamin D and calcium supplements can protect mobile, high-risk, over-70 seniors against future bone fractures.

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 The Lancet.

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 absorption of calcium. The recommended intake for adults over the age of 50 is 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.

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