Older adults, especially post-menopausal women, frequently take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help prevent bone loss and fractures but new research calls into question whether or not these daily pills provide any significant benefit.
A Chinese study of more than 50,000 adults over the age of 50, living in different countries, found that calcium and vitamin D supplements were not linked with a decreased risk for new fractures. This current research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirms the findings of a 2015 study(led by Mark Bolland of the University of Auckland) that showed taking daily calcium tablets only increases bone density by 1 to 2 per cent which is not enough to prevent fractures. And because calcium supplements are associated with an increased risk for heart disease, kidney stones and acute gastrointestinal problems, they may cause more harm than good.
The jury is still out on vitamin D supplements which may offer some protection against injury from falls. It is believed that these supplement may improve muscle strength in adults with very low levels of vitamin D in the blood.
Calcium and vitamin D are still important components of a healthy diet. Dairy products, broccoli, kale, canned salmon(with soft bones) and white beans are all good sources of calcium and mushrooms, eggs, fortified dairy milk, salmon and soy milk are good ways to get the recommended 800 IU of vitamin D daily. And just 10 minutes of exposure to sunshine daily allows the body to make it’s own vitamin D.
The best way to reduce the risk for fractures as we age is to continue to get regular weight-bearing exercise such as 30 minutes of brisk walking daily along with strength training to build muscle and preserve balance, reducing the risk for falls.
Along with fall prevention exercise, vulnerable older adults may also want to consider using hip-protector garments and undergarments such as HipSaver, available to purchase online at Brown Healthcare.