Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
For years, doctors have been recommending post-menopausal women take vitamin D and calcium supplements–but a federal panel of experts are now saying these supplements may not prevent fractures or broken bones.
According to recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, daily vitamin D doses of 400 international units (IU) or lower and calcium doses of 1,000 milligrams or lower may not be necessary for postmenopausal women who are not vitamin D deficient or do not have osteoporosis. They added there is not enough evidence to suggest the supplements would help men or higher doses of the supplements would benefit either men or women.
However, the task force also pointed out not only don´t these recommendations apply to people who already have osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency–the advice also doesn’t apply to people over 65 who are at risk of falls.
“We’re not saying don’t use it,” says Linda Baumann, a member of the task force and a medical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But think about it, because we’re not sure it has the benefit you think it has.”
A 2011 Institute of Medicine report said 1,200 milligrams of calcium is the recommended intake for post-menopausal women, yet, according to the task force, any supplemental calcium may not result in any benefit.
“Vitamin D and calcium are critical to bone health,” Baumann told Boston.com. “But the evidence doesn´t show that supplementation leads to less fracture.”
Task force member Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, wrote an editorial that accompanied the recommendations in the journal. In it, she discussed the research review process by which the panel arrived at the series of recommendations.
The panel found studies that varied widely on how much and when people took their supplements. They also found because most studies are focused on osteoporosis in white women, there’s no good data on men or minorities.
“What is invariably found in these studies is if people have a good diet and are physically active and go outside that they don´t need these additional supplements,” Nestle said.
“The other thing that’s really unclear is the appropriate dose and dosing regimen,” Baumann said.
Nestle added people should “prefer to err on the side of caution,” and stop taking the pills. “But for a lot of people who take them, it´ll be easier to just continue to take a supplement,” she said.
The panel´s recommendations received criticism from some organizations, including the Council for Responsible Nutrition, one of the dietary supplement industries leading trade associations.
“The USPSTF recommendations should be further reviewed and discussed within the scientific and medical communities before consumers jump to change their supplementation habits,” the group said in a public statement.
No matter what course of action people decide to take–most experts recommend people consult with their doctors before stopping, or starting, a supplement regimen.