Recent Meta-analysis finds Supplements Do Not Prevent Fractures in Healthy Older Adults
A study published in the December 26, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association does not support the use of calcium or vitamin D supplements or a combination of the two to reduce fracture risk of any kind in healthy older adults. The meta-analysis concluded that calcium, calcium plus vitamin D, and vitamin D supplementation alone were not significantly associated with a lower incidence of hip, non-vertebral, vertebral, or total fractures in community-dwelling older adults. A meta-analysis combines data from multiple studies in an effort to statistically combine the results of multiple studies and draw conclusions about the research. There are limitations to meta-analysis but they do offer a way to evaluate outcomes from multiple studies.
The authors stressed that among people healthy enough to still live in the community, the "findings do not support the routine use of these supplements". The authors emphasized that patients living in residential care facilities may still benefit from calcium or vitamin D supplementation, as "the benefits of calcium and vitamin D supplementation may differ between people living in the community and people living in residential institutions."
Getting adequate calcium and Vitamin D is key to bone health but the common perception that supplements can prevent fractures is not substantiated by this meta-analysis. Regardless, the focus should be on eating an overall bone healthy diet that is adequate in calcium and vitamin D, getting exercise designed to safely strengthen bones, and focusing on fall prevention, rather than taking supplements. Taking calcium and Vitamin D supplements does not guarantee healthy bones.