A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2006;354:669–83) offered a startling conclusion—calcium and vitamin D don’t reduce the risk of fractures in post-menopausal women. Despite multiple, positive research studies on calcium and bone health, this study caused consumers to question their doctor’s recommendation to take more calcium. This large, double-blind, placebo-controlled, long-term study examined the effects of 1000 mg of calcium carbonate and 400 IU of vitamin D as compared to placebo. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that “Among healthy postmenopausal women, calcium with vitamin D supplementation resulted in a small but significant improvement in hip bone density, and did not significantly reduce hip fracture.”
Unfortunately, without investigating the details of the study, the mass media spread the word that calcium doesn’t help prevent osteoporosis, causing widespread confusion. If they dug deeper, they would have found that there were several factors skewing the way the results were presented.
If one evaluated the results of only the women who were compliant in taking the calcium, and excluded the women who did not consistently take calcium, one would find that taking calcium reduced fractures significantly—by 29%.
Also, it is important to remember that magnesium, vitamin K, silicon, manganese, strontium, zinc, copper, folic acid, boron, phosphorus, and vitamins B12, C, and B6 are important to improving bone health. Furthermore, many physicians recommend a minimum of 800 IU of vitamin D3 and a more absorbable form of calcium, rather than carbonate.Weight-bearing exercise is also critical.
All in all, it is important to remember that news headlines may not actually reflect the true outcome of the research, and that there are many ways to interpret results.
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