Are Vitamin D and Calcium Still Worth Taking?

Maybe you recently read a headline that went something like this: “Vitamin D and Calcium Do Not Prevent Fractures.” Many headlines were much worse. Over this past weekend I read the research paper published in JAMA. Is it real? Should you not bother taking your calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones? No—keep taking them. But it does give me an opportunity to talk about some of the issues surrounding these types of papers as well as the complexity of nutrition for our health. That’s our topic this week.

The study was a meta-analysis of studies that examined the relationship between the risk of fractures in elderly populations and supplementation with calcium, vitamin D, and both supplements together. After a rigorous database search, 33 randomized controlled trials were included in the meta-analysis. Some studies lasted several months, and some lasted several years. The amounts of calcium and vitamin D in the supplements varied in every study. After analysis, the researchers determined that neither calcium nor vitamin D nor the combination of both reduced the rate of fractures when compared to placebo. That led to their conclusions.

This was a mess as you probably guessed with differing quantities and lengths of the trials. What bothered me most was that if they really understood nutrition as well as the results of the studies they included, they could have done something special. I’ll cover that on Thursday.

What are you prepared to do today?

Dr. Chet


Reference: JAMA. 2017;318(24):2466-2482. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.19344.


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