Vitamin D and calcium supplements do not reduce risk of bone fractures in older people, study finds

A review of 33 research trials has found that there is no benefit to people aged 50 or over who take the supplements, leading experts to call for medical guidance to be changed.

More than 51,000 participants took part in the trials, which looked at whether the supplements reduced the risk of hip and spinal fractures, as well as other types of common bone breakages.

The participants, who were not from nursing homes or living in institutional settings, were given vitamin D and calcium supplements and compared to those who had taken a placebo. The findings appear to contradict previous guidance issued by Public Health England, which last year encouraged people of all ages to take Vitamin D supplements in order to offset the effects of gloomy weather and poor diets. Dr Jia-Guo Zhao, a researcher in the department of orthopedic surgery at Tianjin Hospital, China, said that the findings showed that the supplements were not a substitute for leading healthier lifestyles in old age. “It is time to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements for the community-dwelling older adults,” he added.“The guidelines should be changed. We think that improving the lifestyle, getting enough exercise and enough sunshine, and adjusting the diet may be more important than taking these supplements.”Vitamin D supplements are often recommended by doctors to elderly people, as it is used by the body alongside calcium to maintain bone health.The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for most adults is 600 IU (international units), or 800 IU after age 70.However, when people take daily vitamin D doses of 1,000 IU or higher, they run the risk of serious side effects, particularly when used in combination with calcium.Previous research has linked high doses of vitamin D to an increased risk of falls, fractures, kidney stones, certain cancers and premature death.The latest review, published in the medical journal JAMA, found that there was little evidence to support the association between the supplements and a reduced risk of bone fractures in either men or women.Dr Kurt Kennel, a US specialist in endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition said that the findings showed that menopausal women and older men should not “equate” supplementation with “adequate treatment”.“Routine initiation of calcium and/or vitamin D supplementation in older women and men for prevention of fracture should not be advised,” he added.

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