“The routine use of these supplements is unnecessary in community-dwelling older people,” said lead researcher Dr. Jia-Guo Zhao, an orthopedic surgeon with Tianjin Hospital in China. “I think that it is time to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.”
Not all experts agreed with this conclusion, however. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Smith says the study makes a “bold leap” by arguing that these supplements do no good at all.
“The big picture, which seems to be lost in this study, is that the personal health cost of a hip fracture can be catastrophic,” said Smith, an assistant professor of orthopedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
“The potential benefit of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in preventing even a small number of hip fractures far outweighs the otherwise minimum risks associated with routine calcium and vitamin D supplementation in at-risk populations,” Smith added.
It’s been longstanding medical advice that aging people focus on getting enough calcium and vitamin D to preserve their bone health as they age.
About 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is stored in the bones and teeth, and the body cannot produce the mineral on its own, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis. The body also requires vitamin D to absorb calcium.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women aged 50 or younger and men 70 or younger should get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. Men and women older than that should get 1,200 mg daily.
For their analysis, Zhao and his colleagues combed through medical literature to find clinical trials that previously tested the usefulness of calcium and Vitamin D supplements. They wound up with data from 33 different clinical trials involving more than 51,000 participants, all of whom were older than 50 and living independently.
Most of the clinical trials took place in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, Zhao said. The dosage of the supplements varied between the clinical trials, as did the frequency at which they were taken.