Vitamin D, Calcium for Elderly Questioned
Studies Show No Bone Fracture Prevention From Vitamin D/Calcium in High-Risk Seniors
WebMD News Archive
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
Supplements Have Their Place
Perhaps a more important criticism of the studies comes from John Hathcock,
PhD. Hathcock is vice president for scientific and international affairs at the
Council for Responsible Nutrition, a group that represents the supplement
Hathcock says that vitamin D and calcium by themselves are not a total
insurance policy against fractures in the elderly. Earlier studies, he points
out, show the reduction in fractures to be in the 30% to 40% range. The
Torgerson study did not have enough participants to detect a reduction in
fractures of less than 30%. And Hathcock says the Grant study, too, could
easily have missed such an effect.
"These studies do not exclude modest but important benefits for vitamin
D and calcium supplements," Hathcock tells WebMD. "This should not
suggest that anybody stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements."
Grant says elderly people at risk of fracture should be taking medications
that build new bone mass. Such patients, he says, also need supplements.
"People who are taking very bone-active drugs, like bisphosphonates, are
encouraged to take vitamin D and calcium at the same time," he says.
"Those who now are just taking vitamin D and calcium should consider --
with their doctors -- whether they would benefit from bone-active