Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Osteoporosis Health Center

Font Size

Is Calcium a Bust for Bones?

Regular Use of Supplements May Be the Key for Older Women's Hip Strength
WebMD Health News

Feb. 15, 2006 -- Calcium and Vitamin D supplements may help protect some older women's hips -- but only when taken regularly, a new study shows.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, followed more than 36,000 healthy, postmenopausal women for an average of seven years.

Women who were assigned to take calcium and vitamin D twice daily -- and did so -- were 29% less likely to fracture their hips than those who got fake supplements (placebo). Women not adhering to the daily vitamins had only a slightly lower risk of hip fractures compared with placebo.

However, calcium and vitamin D supplements didn't seem to cut the women's risk of other bone fractures, write the researchers. They included Rebecca Jackson, MD, of Ohio State University.

"This all really points to the ability of women at highest risk of osteoporosis to make their own informed choices about the supplements they take," Jackson says in a news release.

The study was part of the Women's Health Initiative, which has covered a wide range of women's health issues.

Bone Health Debate

A journal editorial takes a slightly different view.

"Unfortunately, although the trial was well conducted, the results ... leave many questions unanswered," writes editorialist Joel Finkelstein, MD, of Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

"It seems reasonable to recommend that women consume the recommended daily levels of calcium and vitamin D through diet, supplements, or both," Finkelstein writes. "But one message is clear: Calcium with vitamin D supplementation by itself is not enough to ensure optimal bone health."

"Calcium with vitamin D supplementation is akin to the ante for a poker game: It is where everyone starts," he continues. A woman at significant risk of fracture "probably needs something more."

Real Supplements vs. Fakes

The researchers gave half the women calcium and vitamin D supplements. The other half got fake supplements (placebo). The women didn't know which pills they'd gotten.

The women took one pill twice daily at meals. The real supplements each contained 500 milligrams of calcium and 200 international units of vitamin D.

Many women already had several factors in their bones' favor before the study started, Jackson's team notes.

Today on WebMD

Women working out and walking with weights
Reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles.
Chinese cabbage
Calcium-rich foods to add to your diet.
woman stretching
Get the facts on osteoporosis.
Porous bone
Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
senior woman
Woman holding plate of brocolli
wrist xray
Superfood for Bones
mature woman
sunlight in hands
man and woman in front of xray
woman with dumbbells