Press Release on Calcium and Vitamin D for fracture reduction
The Osteoporosis Education Project
A Division of Leading Edge Research, Inc.
501 (c) 3 Non-Profit Corporation
Susan E. Brown, Ph.D., CCN, Director
2-17-06 Press Release
Calcium and Vitamin D Really Don't Reduce Fractures?
Take a Second Look
Yesterday (Feb 16th) the New England Journal of Medicine published new findings of the Women's Health Initiative Study looking at calcium and vitamin D for hip fracture reduction (NEJM 354,7:684-96,2006). Headlines around the country read, "Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Don't Cut Fracture". But, we at the Osteoporosis Education Project ask, "Is this true?"
Sure enough, a more careful look at the study suggests that the headlines are misleading and that calcium and Vitamin D are indeed helpful in preventing osteoporotic fractures.
In this study 36,282 postmenopausal US women were given the daily treatment of either 1,000 mg of calcium plus 400 IU vitamin D or "sugar pills".
After seven years there was no reported significant reduction in hip fractures in the group as a whole--thus the headline, "Calcium and Vitamin D Don't Cut Fracture". However, when researchers looked only at women over 60 years of age (those most likely to experience a hip fracture) they found there was a 21% reduction in hip fractures. Further, when researchers looked just at the women who actually took the calcium and vitamin D supplements on a regular basis over the seven year study they found a 29% decrease in hip fractures. Thus, just the simple addition of 1,000 mg
calcium and 400 IU vitamin D did help reduce hip fracture by almost one-third among older women.
Most important of all, however, is the issue of supplement doses. While the dose of calcium used in the study was appropriate (1,000 mgs), the dose of vitamin D (400 IU) used in the study was only half of the amount known to be needed to reduce hip fractures. Several good studies in the U.S. and Europe have recently shown that supplementation with 700 to 800 IU vitamin D (not 400 IU as used in this study) along with calcium reduced osteoporotic fractures by some 30 to 50 or even 60%.
So the byline of this $725 million study segment should be that an adequate amount of calcium (1,000 mg) plus half of the vitamin D necessary to reduce fractures was able to decrease hip fractures by 29% in those women using the supplements daily. Preventing nearly one in three hip fractures with calcium and low dose vitamin D is not bad. Further, we surely would have seen a much greater fracture reduction if the appropriate amount of vitamin D had been used in this study and had all the subjects really taken the supplemental nutrients.
Susan E. Brown, Ph.D., CNS, Director
The Osteoporosis Education Project, East Syracuse, NY