[PHNUTR-L] Calcium supplements may prevent fractures in elderly
women who take them regularly
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD
fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com
Tue Apr 25 07:00:31 PDT 2006
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Public release date: 24-Apr-2006
Contact: Richard L. Prince, M.D.
rlprince at cyllene.uwa.edu.au
JAMA and Archives Journals
Calcium supplements may prevent fractures in elderly women who take them
Calcium supplements may be an ineffective way of preventing bone
fractures among the population of elderly women because of poor
long-term compliance with the therapy, but appear to be effective for
women who take the supplements regularly, according to a study in the
April 24 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the
Menopause reduces women's levels of the hormone estrogen, and these
lowered levels can contribute to calcium deficiencies, according to
background information in the article. Calcium supplements can be used
to correct this imbalance, but it is not known if these supplements can
prevent fractures in bones weakened by the loss of calcium, a condition
known as osteoporosis.
Richard L. Prince, M.D., University of Western Australia, Western
Australian Institute of Medical Research and Sir Charles Gairdner
Hospital, Devine, and colleagues studied the effect of calcium
supplementation on 1,460 women older than age 70 years. Half of the
patients were randomly assigned to take 600-milligram calcium carbonate
tablets twice per day and the other half took identical placebo tablets.
X-rays, bone ultrasounds and bone scans were performed at the beginning
of the study and after five years, and adverse events that required a
visit to a health care provider were recorded at four-month intervals.
Participants returned their unused pills at the end of each year-long
period and those who took fewer than 80 percent were classified as
After five years, 236 (16.2 percent) participants sustained one or more
osteoporotic fractures. Overall, women who were assigned to the calcium
group had the same risk of fracture as those in the placebo group,
indicating that calcium supplementation did not reduce the risk of
fracture in the entire study population. However, among the 830 women
(56.8 percent of the entire study group)--310 in the calcium group and
320 in the placebo group--who took 80 percent or more of their pills and
were classified as compliant, those in the calcium group were less
likely to develop fractures than those in the placebo group (10.2
percent vs. 15.4 percent). Calcium treatment also improved results on
several of the bone tests. Constipation was the only adverse effect that
was more common in women taking calcium than in those taking placebo,
but there was no difference in the percentage of women who stopped
taking pills because of constipation.
Calcium supplements appeared to be ineffective at reducing fractures
because so many patients were noncompliant, the authors write. In
patients who were compliant, there was no difference in the amount of
calcium they consumed through their regular diet, suggesting that 1.2
grams of calcium per day is enough to help protect women's bones. "In
conclusion, the calcium supplementation regimen tested currently cannot
be recommended as a public health approach to fracture prevention
because of the lack of long-term compliance," the authors write.
"However, these data supported the continued use of calcium supplements
by women who are able to remain compliant with their use. In these
individuals, especially if they are under the care of a clinician,
calcium supplementation is a safe and effective therapy for reducing the
risk of osteoporitic fracture."
(Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166: 869-875. Available pre-embargo to media at
Editor's Note: This study was supported by a grant from the Healthway
Health Promotion Foundation of Western Australia and by a project grant
from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.
Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD < fivestar at nutritionucanlivewith.com >
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