Facts and Myths About Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
Targeted News Service
Calcium and vitamin D are essential to keeping bones strong, dense and healthy as we age, as well as preventing bone loss, osteporosis, and skeletal fractures. Calcium builds and maintains healthy bones and vitamin D assists with absorption and increased uptake.
Alarmingly, 90 percent of women in the U.S. are deficient in calcium and 50 to 90 percent are deficient in vitamin D. These numbers are even higher among minorities, including Hispanics and African-Americans. Even among children, 30 to 40 percent are already deficient in calcium and vitamin D.Furthermore, about 50 percent of women and 20 percent of men aged 50 and older will have a fracture as a result of osteoporosis.
Clinicians and patients have become concerned about the possible, but unproven links between
calcium supplements and heart attacks. In an editorial published in the current issue of the
The authors emphasize that the benefits of calcium and vitamin D supplements on bone health are conclusive, and that the totality of evidence is reassuring on cardiovascular disease. The totality of evidence includes all sources of information whether basic or clinical research, especially studies designed to test the question. Previous concerns were based largely on over-interpretation of results from studies not designed to test the question as well as overreliance on a few sub-groups of individual studies rather than looking at the totality of evidence.
To decrease disability and death from osteoporosis, many guidelines recommend daily intakes of 1,200 mg of calcium and 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D.
Hennekens and Barice conclude that it would be unfortunate if clinicians failed to prescribe the combination of calcium and vitamin D supplements as adjuncts to therapeutic lifestyles changes of proven benefit, especially regular physical activity, to the very large number of patients in whom the benefit-to-risk ratio in clearly favorable.
"While drugs to prevent and treat osteoporosis serve as bricks in strengthening bones and preventing bone loss, calcium and vitamin D serve as mortar," said Hennekens. "Without adequate intake of this combination, as recommended by most guidelines, we can neither achieve nor maintain healthy bone structure."
Barice has been a national leader in women's health as well as addiction medicine. She established the
Hennekens has received numerous recent honors including the 2013 Fries Prize for Improving Health for his seminal contributions to the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, the 2013 Presidential Award from his alma mater,
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