Two new studies carried out in the United Kingdom have found that taking vitamin D or calcium supplements does not help prevent fractures in elderly people.
In one study, researchers led by University of Aberdeen professor Adrian Grant randomly assigned 5,292 people over 70 who had already suffered a fracture either to take a dummy pill, a daily supplement of vitamin D, calcium or both supplements together. They were then tracked for between 24 and 62 months.
The researchers found that 13 percent of the patients had a new fracture. For people in the group taking calcium, the fracture rate was 12.6 percent, compared with 13.7 percent of those taking a dummy pill. For those taking vitamin D alone, the fracture rate was 13.3 percent, compared with 13.1 percent for those taking the dummy pill. And for those taking both calcium and vitamin D, the fracture rate was 12.6 percent, compared with 13.4 percent for those taking the dummy pill.
The researchers concluded that supplements do not offer protection from second fractures.
This study appears in the April 27 online issue of The Lancet.
In the second study at the University of York, researchers tracked 3,314 women aged 70 and older. Half were given calcium and vitamin D tablets to take daily, the rest just received a leaflet on diet and prevention of falls. All women were monitored for an average of about two years.
The researchers found that about 1 percent of women in both groups suffered a subsequent hip fracture. The researchers concluded that there was no reduction in hip fractures with either calcium or vitamin D.
This study appears in the April 30 issue of the British Medical Journal.
An expert interviewed by HealthDay saw nothing new in The Lancet study. "I am not surprised," said Dr. Steven J. Goldstein, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University Medical Center. "By definition, the people they studied here had osteoporosis."
"We know that vitamin D and calcium alone are not sufficient to treat osteoporosis," Goldstein added. "All this study showed is that if you take people who have already suffered a fracture, who therefore by definition have osteoporosis, and you simply treat them with calcium and vitamin D, it's not sufficient. You've already let the horse out of the barn."
Goldstein pointed out that the time to take vitamin D and calcium is when you are young.
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