To Protect Bones From Osteoporosis-related Fractures, Calcium Supplements Must be Taken Regularly
The risk for
A recent study looked at how compliance with a calcium supplementation regimen affected fracture risk in women over age 70. The results, in the April 24, 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine, show that women who took calcium supplements at least 80% of the time had significant reductions in their risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
About the Study
Australian researchers assigned 1,460 healthy women over age 70 to take either calcium supplements (600 milligrams [mg] each) or placebos twice daily for five years. Any unused pills were returned. Based on these unused pills, women were classified as compliant (took 80% or more of their assigned pills) or non-compliant (took less than 80%). Researchers compared bone density, osteoporosis-related fractures, and adverse events between the calcium and placebo groups, as well as the compliant and non-compliant subgroups.
After five years, there was no difference in fracture rates between the calcium and placebo groups. Significant changes were seen, though, among the 57% of women in the calcium group who took their supplements regularly. The compliant calcium-takers experienced greater improvements in bone density and fewer fractures compared with the compliant placebo-takers. These differences remained significant after adjustments were made for the effects of age, previous fractures, and body mass index (BMI) on bone health.
Vitamin D status is a possible limitation to this study. Although participants were “vitamin-D sufficient,” vitamin D levels could have been too low for complete calcium absorption, as there is controversy about the definition of “vitamin-D sufficient” as well as the best way to measure vitamin D status.
How Does This Affect You?
The message from this study is simple—in order to benefit from calcium supplements, you need to take them regularly. The researchers also conclude that 1,200 mg per day is a safe level of supplementation to lower the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures in women over age 70. This level may be too high for you, depending on your age, diet, and risk factors. Talk with your doctor to decide if a supplement is right for you, as well as which one and how much to take.
Calcium is one lifestyle factor that can improve bone health. Take the following steps to protect your bones:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and fruits and vegetables (produce provides potassium and vitamin K, which are linked to bone health)
- Exercise for 30-60 minutes per day; include weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, running, and weight/resistance training (swimming is not weight-bearing) to strengthen bones
- Don’t smoke
- Don't drink excessively
- Have your bone density tested at age 65, or earlier when appropriate
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases, National Resource Center
National Institutes of Health
Center for Science in the Public Interest. Behind the headlines: untangling the science behind the latest health news. Available at: http://www.cspinet.org/nah/04_06/health.pdf . Accessed April 25, 2006.
National Osteoporosis Foundation. Fast facts. Available at: http://www.nof.org/osteoporosis/diseasefacts.htm . Accessed April 26, 2006.
Prince RL, Devine A, Dhaliwal SS, Dick IM. Effects of calcium supplementation on clinical fracture and bone structure. Archives of Internal Medicine . 2006;166:869-875.
Last reviewed Apr 27, 2006 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.