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It's Official, Calcium and Vitamin D Prevent Fractures


Taking both calcium and vitamin D supplements every day helps prevent fractures, regardless of your age or gender. That’s the conclusion of researchers who conducted a study of nearly 70,000 patients from the United States and Europe.

Although there certainly is no shortage of studies of the use and effectiveness of calcium and vitamin D, both individually and together, when it comes to bone health and risk of fractures, this latest study “goes a long way toward resolving conflicting evidence about the role of vitamin D, either alone or in combination with calcium, in reducing fractures,.” That’s the word from John Robbins, professor of internal medicine at University of California, Davis, and a co-author of the study.

According to a study published in September 2009 from the Netherlands, 800 IU per day of vitamin D is needed to bring the vitamin to adequate levels in the body to help prevent fractures. Because calcium balance is affected by both vitamin D status and by calcium intake, individuals are also urged to get an adequate amount of the mineral as well. The adequate intake for calcium is 1,000 mg for adults ages 19 to 50 and 1,200 mg for those 51 and older, according to the Agricultural Research Service. The Vitamin D Council recommends healthy adults who do not get regular exposure to sunlight take 5,000 vitamin D daily.

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In this latest study, which was led by researchers at Copenhagen University in Denmark, Robbins and an international team of investigators evaluated the results of seven large clinical trials to determine effectiveness of vitamin D alone or along with calcium in reducing fractures among people whose average age was 70 or older. They did not find any significant effects for individuals who took vitamin D supplements only.

One of the trials analyzed was Robbins’ research as part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which was part of a national program to identify the most common causes of death, disability, and poor quality of life among postmenopausal women. Those trials were designed mainly to study the impact of vitamin D supplements and calcium in preventing hip fractures, as well as spine and other fractures. Robbins’ research included more than 1,000 healthy, postmenopausal women and found that taking vitamin D and calcium together helped prevent fractures and preserve bone health.

This new international study, “because it incorporates so many more people, really confirms our earlier conclusions,” says Robbins. “This study supports a growing consensus that combined calcium and vitamin D is more effective than vitamin D Alone in reducing a variety of fractures.” The combination of calcium and vitamin D was also found to be beneficial for both women and men of all ages, and for people who had already experienced a fracture. Results of the study are published in the online British Medical Journal.

Agricultural Research Service
Lips P et al. Clinical Endocrinology (Oxf) 2009 Sep 10
University of California, Davis, news release Jan. 14, 2010
Vitamin D Council