Study Adds to Confusion about Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements for Menopausal Women

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Do you take calcium and vitamin D supplements? And as a middle-age woman who is going through menopause, should you be taking them? There have been a number of experts saying “yes” while others say “no,” and a new study doesn’t help clear up the confusion at all.

    That study out of University of California, Davis focused on testing the added value of taking calcium and vitamin D to prevent fractures among women who were taking postmenopausal hormone therapy.

    This study involved data from 30,000 women who had participated in the Women’s Health Initiative. These participations were between the ages of 50 to 79 and had gone through the menopausal transition. The study followed them for an average of 7.2 years.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    Of those women, a total of 16,089 participated in the calcium and vitamin D portion of the study. The women were placed into two groups. One group took 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 international units of vitamin D daily. The other group took a placebo.

    The researchers found that the effect of taking calcium and vitamin D was stronger among women who were assigned to take hormone replacement therapy than the women who took the placebo. Their analysis found that the combination of hormone therapy replacement, vitamin D and calcium decreased by 57 percent the risk of hip fracture.

    The researchers found that among all of the women who participated in this particular study, the rate of hip fracture was 11 per 10,000 women per year. However, women who only took hormones had a hip fracture rate of 18 per 10,000 while women who only took supplements had a hip fracture rate of 25 per 10,000. And women who didn’t take hormone therapy or supplements had 22 hip fractures per 10,000 women.

    These findings come in the wake of recommendations early this year by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to encourage postmenopausal women to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to reduce fracture risks. The task force reviewed evidence from six randomized trials, finding no evidence that taking 400 international units of vitamin D3 and 1,000 milligrams of calcium benefitted postmenopausal women. The panel’s review also found evidence suggesting an increased risk of kidney stones due to the supplements with about one in every 273 women who took these supplements over a seven-year period developing kidney stones.

    The task force does recommend that vitamin D supplements be taken for the prevention of falls in men and women who are 65 years old or above who have previously fallen or who have a deficiency in vitamin D.


    Bridget M. Kuehn of news@JAMA reported that there isn’t conclusive evidence at this point whether higher-dose supplements could be beneficial for postmenopausal women. Furthermore, there is conflicting evidence whether taking excessive amounts of calcium may contribute to cardiovascular problems.

    The News@JAMA story interviewed Dr. Clifford Rosen, who is a member of the Institute of Medicine and past president of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. He noted that the task force recommendations were in line with IOM findings that warn that supplementation is not believed to help healthy individuals in general and may ultimately hurt them. He also pointed out that certain groups – such as those living in a nursing home and people who are 70 years old and above who have low bone density – may benefit from additional supplementation of vitamin D and calcium.

  • So since there is conflicting information, what should you do? I’d suggest talking to your health care provider about your specific situation. That way all the factors of your individual case can be taken into consideration and you and your doctor can work together to make an informed decisions about this matter.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Kuehn, B. M. (2013). Consensus builds against vitamin D and calcium supplementation for postmenopausal women.

    MedlinePlus. (2013). Women on hormone therapy may benefit from extra calcium, vitamin D.

    Robbins. J. A., et al. (2013). Women’s Health Initiative clinical trials: interaction of calcium and vitamin D with hormone therapy. Menopause.

Published On: June 27, 2013