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Vitamin D and calcium supplements ineffective in preventing fractures

Monday 8th January 2018
Vitamin D and calcium supplements do not necessarily reduce the risk of bone breaks and fractures in over-50s, new research has shown. Image: Adkasai via iStock
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Radiographers who regularly recommend vitamin D or calcium supplements to patients in a bid to improve the strength of their bones might want to consider changing their advice in future, as new research has revealed they may not be as effective as once thought.

Scientists based at Tianjin Hospital in China have carried out 33 trials into the effect of supplements on preventing bone fractures and breakages, finding that, in reality, they have no significant effect on reducing them.

The data analysed related to more than 51,000 people in total - all those taking the vitamin D and calcium supplements were doing so in their own homes rather than in a nursing home or hospital setting, and their results were compared against those of participants who had been taking a placebo.

It was found that over-50s who were taking extra vitamin D and calcium were at the same risk of hip, spinal and other common bone breakages and fractures as those who weren't taking these supplements.

Previous research has found that high doses of vitamin D could even increase the risk of breaks and fractures, as well as numerous other health problems.

Yet recently updated guidance from Public Health England encourages people to take vitamin D supplements to keep the effects of poor weather and an unhealthy diet at bay.

However, the authors of this new study suggest that if people are eating healthily and being naturally exposed to daylight, their bodies should be getting enough vitamin D anyway. Meanwhile, calcium intake can also be upped through diet, with milk, yoghurt, spinach and soybeans all naturally high in calcium.

Lead author of the research Dr Jia-Guo Zhao said he believes supplements should not replace a healthy lifestyle.

"It is time to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements for the community-dwelling older adults," he stated.

"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."

Written by Megan Smith

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