When you take a calcium or vitamin D supplements, how are they benefiting your body? As it turns out, they may be doing less good than you think, according to new research (“Do you take calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones? A new study says it doesn’t help,” 2017).
Recently, a group of scientists led by Dr. Jia-Guo Zhao of the Tianjin Hospital in China looked through a series of clinical studies, systematic reviews, and other reports published over the past decade (since circa 2006). Their goal was ultimately to determine how calcium and vitamin D pills could potentially prevent bone fractures. A total of 51,145 people included in the studies were assessed for their bone fractures and use of the supplements (“Association Between Calcium or Vitamin D Supplementation and Fracture Incidence in Community-Dwelling Older Adults,” 2017).
“The increased social and economic burdens for osteoporosis-related fractures worldwide make the prevention of such injuries a major public health goal,” the researchers wrote in their report. “Previous studies have reached mixed conclusions regarding the association between calcium, vitamin D, or combined calcium and vitamin D supplements and fracture incidence in older adults.”
For calcium, the researchers looked at 14 different trials that pitted the supplements against no treatment or placebos. In the end, they were unable to determine a relationship between the use of calcium supplements and the risk of hip fracture. There were also no clear links between these supplements of other bones and fractures involving the spine.
For vitamin D, the scientists looked at 17 trials. By the end of their analysis, they were unable to find a statistically significant link between the use of the supplement and hip fracture risk, spine fracture risk and other bone fractures.
To conclude their research, the team looked at 13 studies involving patients who took a combined calcium-vitamin D supplement. Once again, they came up empty – there was no significant risk reduction for any kind of fracture.
“In this meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials, the use of supplements that included calcium, vitamin D, or both compared with placebo or no treatment was not associated with a lower risk of fractures among community-dwelling older adults,” concluded the authors of the report. “These findings do not support the routine use of these supplements in community-dwelling older people.”
So what can you do to get the calcium and vitamins you need daily? The Vitamin D Council recommends exposure to natural sunlight daily (ultraviolet B rays), but keep in mind that you do not need to tan or burn in order to get a healthy amount (“How do I get the vitamin D my body needs?,” 2018). As for calcium, make sure your diet includes plenty of cheese, dairy, soy products and leafy greens to get your recommended amount (“Best way to get your calcium,” 2012).
Kaplan, Karen. Do you take calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones? A new study says it doesn’t help. Retrieved January 9, 2018, from http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-vitamins-bone-fractures-20171226-story.html
Zhao, Jia-Guo. Association Between Calcium or Vitamin D Supplementation and Fracture Incidence in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Retrieved January 9, 2018, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2667071?redirect=true
How do I get the vitamin D my body needs? Retrieved January 9, 2018, from https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/
Best way to get your calcium. Retrieved January 9, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/best-way-to-get-your-calcium.