With osteoporosis fractures increasing in prevalence worldwide, the prevention of fractures has become a major economic and social burden. In addition, nations with poorer health care systems in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are facing aging populations, making the development of affordable preventative therapy especially important.
Supplemental calcium, either alone or in combination with Vitamin D, has been suggested as an inexpensive treatment for the prevention of osteoporotic bone loss and fractures. Data from clinical trials have resulted in inconsistent results regarding the efficacy of this treatment in preventing bone loss and fracture. Tang et al. have synthesized a meta-analysis of randomized trials in which calcium, or calcium in combination with vitamin D, was used to prevent osteoporotic fracture and bone loss in adults over 50 years of age in an effort to offer a comprehensive review of all the relevant evidence.1
Their findings supported the use of calcium and vitamin D supplementation. When data were pooled, it was revealed that supplementation had resulted in a reduction of 12% in bone fractures of all types (risk ratio 0.88, 95% CI 0.83-0.95; p=0.0004), and a 0.54% decrease in bone mineral density loss (0.35-0.73; p<0.0001) at the hip and 1.19% (0.76-1.61%; p<0.0001) in the spine.
The authors conclude that the evidence supports the use of calcium, or calcium in combination with vitamin D supplementation, as preventative therapy for osteoporosis in adults over 50 years of age. In addition, they suggest a minimum dosage of 1200 mg for calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D for optimal therapeutic effect.
- Tang BM, Eslick GD, Nowson C, et al. Use of calcium or calcium in combination with vitamin D supplementation to prevent fractures and bone loss in people aged 50 years and older: a meta-analysis. Lancet 2007;370:657-66.