Life Extension Update
Calcium supplements don’t work if you don’t take them
In what appears to be a no-brainer revelation, a report published in the April 24, 2006 issue of the AMA journal Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that calcium supplements are an effective way to help prevent bone fractures only in women who take them regularly. The finding supports the conclusions of an earlier widely publicized trial covered in the February 18, 2006 issue of Life Extension Update which found that although the benefit in hip fracture risk reduction was small for total participants who received calcium and vitamin D compared to those who received a placebo, there was more than twice the benefit among women with an adherence to the supplement regimen of at least 80 percent. Nevertheless, news media in many instances pounced on the study with headlines proclaiming that calcium and vitamin D supplements were ineffective.
The current five year, double-blind trial, conducted by Richard L. Prince, MD, of the University of Western Australia and his colleagues, enrolled 1,460 women over the age of seventy, and assigned half to receive 600 milligrams calcium carbonate twice daily, while the remaining half received a placebo for five years. Participants underwent x-ray and ultrasonographic tests of bone density prior to initiating therapy and at the end of the study. Adverse events and fractures were recorded every four months. At the end of each year, the subjects returned unused tablets so that compliance could be evaluated, with those who took less than 80 percent classified as noncompliant.
At the study’s conclusion, 16.2 percent of the women had experienced one or more osteoporotic fractures. Women assigned to receive calcium were found to have the same fracture risk as those who received the placebo. Yet when the 830 women who were classified as compliant were analyzed, those in the calcium group had a 34 percent lower rate of fracture, and better ultrasonography and x-ray findings than those who did not receive the mineral. Although more women in the calcium group reported constipation, there was no difference between groups in the percentage of women who stopped taking their pills for this reason.
The authors conclude that "the calcium supplementation regimen tested currently cannot be recommended as a public health approach to fracture prevention because of the lack of long-term compliance . . . However, these data supported the continued use of calcium supplements by women who are able to remain compliant with their use. In these individuals, especially if they are under the care of a clinician, calcium supplementation is a safe and effective therapy for reducing the risk of osteoporitic fracture."
Calcium is the mineral that automatically comes to mind when considering osteoporosis treatment. However, although bone contains large amounts of calcium, other minerals need to be considered as important in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. For example, other trace minerals (minerals needed in small amounts for specific tasks--usually enzyme activation) would include zinc, magnesium, boron, and silicon.
Because other trace minerals have been implicated in osteoporosis, the following regimes are recommended for mineral supplementation:
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