For years Americans have been encouraged to take calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent fractures. These recommendations have targeted post-menopausal women especially because of their risk of developing osteoporosis. Doctors have wondered whether these inexpensive, over-the-counter, supplements did any good in the absence of more potent agents such as fosamax or its injectable counteparts like Reclast or Prolia. This issue is especially acute in cancer patients, in whom premature menopause is frequently caused by anti-cancer drugs. Now the best answer to date is in: calcium and vitamin D do no good even when given together. Published in the widely read Journal of the American Medical Association, an article by a corsortium of Chinese investigators looks at this issue. Click here for the abstract. Dr. Stark can provide you the article if you request it by filling out the form to the right. The authors looked at over thirty randomized trials (in which women were typically given calcium and vitamin D or placebos ) involving over 50,000 women. To boil down their results, they concluded that calcium and vitamin D taken together without the above mentioned more powerful prescription drugs, do no good. They are no better than placebo.
Dr. Stark weighs in, This is not a surprising nor a particularly depressing result. People interested in this field have understood for at least 10-15 years that you needed to add an inhibitor of bone resportion like fosamax for calcium and vitamin D to do any good. This study just nails this down. Sadly the bone resportion agents are costly and have their own strange and potent side effects such as necrosis of the mandible (jaw bone) and hair-line fractures of the femur with prolonged use, for reasons that are poorly understood. Basically women who believe they are helping their bone health by taking these over-the-counter remedies are probably fooling themselves.