Two new published studies suggest lacking evidence that calcium helps in promoting better bone health or preventing fractures.

The two separate researches were published in the British Medical Journal and add to the mounting debate on whether older individuals should increase calcium intake through supplementation to lower their osteoporosis and bone fracture risks.

The study conducted [pdf] by Mark Bolland, associate professor of medicine, and his colleagues at the University of Auckland in New Zealand looked at whether increasing calcium via diet affects bone mineral density (BMD) and if the effects resemble those of calcium supplements.

Based on their randomized controlled trials covering women and men over age 50, the researchers found increased BMD of about 1 to 2 percent over up to five years – something “unlikely to lead to a clinically significant reduction in risk of fracture.”

In the other study, Bolland and his team analyzed studies showing link between calcium intake and lower fracture risks. They found “no clinical trial evidence” that evidence of a higher calcium intake preventing fractures is “weak and inconsistent.”

They found only one study supporting the role of increased calcium in lowering fracture risk, but cited that the 1992 study comprised a frail, unique sample with a deficiency in vitamin D, which is often recommended for fracture prevention in the elderly.

In 2013, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) reviewed research on using vitamin D and calcium in preventing fractures and concluded that post-menopausal women should not take daily calcium supplements.

Karl Michaëlsson, a professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, wrote in a corresponding editorial that it is “puzzling” to continue linking increased calcium and vitamin D consumption to better bone status.

He even warned that increased intakes will even increase risk for conditions such as cardiovascular problems, kidney stones, constipation and acute gastrointestinal symptoms.

According to him, contributing to the continued emphasis is the “profitability of the global supplements industry.”

“[T]here is a tendency for research efforts to follow the money (with accompanying academic prestige), rather than a path defined only by the needs of patients and the public,” he said.

In the United States, adults are recommended to have a daily calcium intake of 1,000 milligrams and those age 71 and above with 1,200 mg. About 43 percent of the population, including almost 70 percent of older women, supplement with calcium and increase intakes by about 330 mg per day.

Due to mounting research showing skepticism on the mineral’s role for stronger bones, those currently supplementing with calcium are suggested to seek guidance from their physician.

Photo: Health Gauge | Flickr

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