Medical experts have long recommended that women take calcium and vitamin D supplements to protect against fractures. But new information has recently brought this recommendation into question. A review panel of medical experts looked at 17 studies on calcium and vitamin D supplements and found that not only does taking a low dose of these supplements not prevent fractures, but it may increase heart attack risk. In the world of health and nutrition, where it seems like there are conflicting recommendations every day, this new finding challenges one of the most enduring piece of advice for women over 50. Here is some information to help you figure out the best course of action for your own health.
Calcium is found in a variety of foods, from yogurt to salmon to cheese. However, it can be difficult to get the daily recommended allowance of calcium from food alone. In addition, the advice regarding vitamin D was to take supplements in order to help the body get the recommended amount. The best way to get vitamin D without supplementing was through sun exposure and fortified foods. Vitamin D and calcium actually work as a team in the body to help get the calcium into the bones, so there is no doubt that getting the recommended amount of both is important. However, previous recommendations of how to do that are now being called into question.
Doctors have long recommended both calcium and vitamin D supplements as a safe and effective way to meet daily requirements. However, new information links daily calcium and vitamin D supplementation to a slightly increased risk of kidney stones. Also, taking daily calcium supplements is linked to an increased risk of heart attack. A study of 24,000 German men and women aged 35-64 showed that those taking calcium supplements were at an 86% greater risk of heart attack than those that did not take supplements! Study participants who only got their calcium from supplements were at a 139% greater risk of heart attack. The panel also concluded that the long standing belief that taking both supplements could prevent fractures in older women dealing with osteoporosis may not be true. Taking the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D supplements was found to have no effect on whether a person would have fractures due to osteoporosis.
What does this mean for people who are trying to get the recommended amount of both vitamin D and calcium? The best advice is still diet and exercise. Weight bearing exercise is shown to help women have stronger bones, and getting calcium from food sources and vitamin D through food sources and sunlight are shown to be the safest and most effective methods for getting your daily dose.