Taking vitamin D and calcium WON'T prevent broken bones, say leading experts
Taking typical supplement dose provides no benefits for average post-menopausal women, finds U.S task forceBut those at high risk of weak bones should consult their doctor

Claire Bates


14:31 GMT, 26 February 2013



14:37 GMT, 26 February 2013

The NHS recommends people over 65 take a daily vitamin D supplement

The NHS recommends people over 65 take a daily vitamin D supplement

Older women who pop vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent broken bones may be taking them in vain, according to leading experts.

A U.S government advisory group found taking typical low doses provided no benefits for average post-menopausal women.

What is more taking 400IU of vitamin D and 1,000mg of calcium daily increased the risk of developing kidney stones.

Both nutrients are crucial for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones and specialists advise getting as much as possible from a good diet and exposure to sunlight.

If an older person has a vitamin deficiency or bone-thinning osteoporosis, doctors often prescribe higher-than-normal doses.

But for otherwise healthy postmenopausal women, adding modest supplements to their diet makes no impact.

It isn't clear if those doses offer bone protection if taken before menopause, or if they help men's bones, according to the new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

It's a confusing message considering that for years, calcium and vitamin D supplements have been widely considered an insurance policy against osteoporosis, with little down side to taking them.

The NHS currently recommends people over 65 take a daily vitamin D pill, although no more than 25micrograms (or 1,000IUs).

'Regrettably, we don't have as much information as we would like to have about a substance that has been around a long time and we used to think we understood,' said Dr Virginia Moyer of the Baylor College of Medicine, who heads the task force.

'Turns out, there's a lot more to learn.'

The recommendations are not for people at high risk of weak bones, such as those with a history of bone fractures. These people should consult their local doctor.

Calcium should be provided by your diet where possible

Calcium should be provided by your diet where possible

In the U.S the average adult is advised to get about 1,000mg of calcium, 1,300 for postmenopausal women, every day. For vitamin D, the goal is 600 IUs of vitamin D daily moving to 800 after age 70.

The nutrients can be found in foods including orange juice fortified with calcium and D; dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese; certain fish including salmon; and fortified breakfast cereals.

Dr Moyer also advises healthy pensioners to exercise as this is proven to shore up bones and good for the rest of the body, too

Cara Welch, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Product Association in Washington, D.C., told Reuters Health the group disagrees with the new recommendation.

'We believe this recommendation is out of step with current research, and it really should not affect consumers who are trying to supplement their calcium and vitamin D intake with supplements,' Welch said.

According to the most recent data from a national survey of Americans, 56 percent of women over 60 years old take vitamin D supplements, and 60 percent take calcium supplements. The two vitamins are often sold together and are relatively inexpensive.