Supplement Calcium Pills with Some Sun
People, especially the elderly, may reach for calcium supplements in hopes of protecting themselves against bone fractures in case of a fall. But a recent analysis of several studies found no reduction in risk of hip fracture with calcium supplementation.
The analysis, “Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women”1 by Bess Dawson-Hughes and colleagues in academia and medicine researched calcium intake studies that had been published between January 1960 and December 2006. They also systematically searched information from biomedical databases, reference lists and abstracts for the study review.
The study pooled results to include a total of 170,991 women with nearly 3,000 hip fractures and a total of 68,606 men with 214 hip fractures. These studies suggest that calcium intake is not appreciably associated with hip fracture risk in women or men. That means the researchers did not find that a higher calcium intake reduced the incidence of hip fractures.
Hip fractures are the most frequent and severe fractures among the elderly. Increased calcium intake is still commonly recommended as a single fracture prevention strategy, although the researchers wrote that considerable uncertainty exists regarding optimal intakes of calcium. For example, for adults over age 50, the recommended calcium intake is 700 milligrams (mg) daily in the United Kingdom, but 1,200 mg daily in the United States. In Singapore, according local studies3, the average calcium intake is in the region of 400mg daily, far below the recommended intakes
Dr. Dawson-Hughes and her colleagues concluded that the findings do not support an overall benefit from greater-than-average calcium intake.
Future studies of fracture prevention should focus on the best combination of calcium plus vitamin D, rather than on calcium supplementation alone. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Bioactive vitamin D or calcitriol is a steroid hormone that helps regulate the body’s levels of calcium and phosphorus, and in mineralization of bone.
- Calcium intake and hip fracture risk in men and women: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled trials, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 6, 1780-1790, December 2007
- USDA/ Agricultural Research Service (2008, June 11). Calcium Alone Does Not Reduce Hip Fracture Risk.
- Bone Mineral Density Measurements Using The Hologic QD2000 In 175 Singaporean Women Aged 20-80, K H Leong, P H Feng, Singapore Medical Journal, 1997 Jan;38(1):25-6.
- Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D, National Institutes of Health