Calcium supplements don’t improve bone density or prevent fractures, and they may in fact pose a health risk to patients, a recent study has shown.
Research was conducted by scientists in New Zealand, who undertook two separate reviews of more than 100 previous investigations which had claimed calcium supplements are highly advisable.
In the first review, experts analyzed two studies that compared the effects of low calcium consumption versus high calcium intake. They also evaluated 44 more trials which had explored the link between calcium and fracture risk. 26 other studies assessing the benefits of calcium supplements were also included in the research.
Experts concluded that none of these trials had provided palpable evidence that taking calcium pills or increasing dairy consumption would diminish the risk of bone fractures. Only one study had yielded better results, but it had surveyed people with substantial vitamin D deficiency.
Another review was conducted on 59 scientific papers, which analyzed the effects of high doses of calcium on the bone density of patients aged 50 and over.
Although findings had suggested a slight boost in bone health following these calcium foods and supplements, researchers now established that these improvements (which amounted to just 1-2% in 5 years) are so tiny that they become inconsequential.
For instance, post-menopausal women usually lose 1% in bone density on a yearly basis, so calcium levels wouldn’t be replenished fast enough.
Overall, it appears that augmenting calcium consumption doesn’t strengthen bones or make bone fractures less likely. Moreover, experts actually believe that the negative effects of calcium pills fat outweigh these easily disputed benefits.
According to clinical trials, such dietary supplements are linked with moderate risk of side effects like constipation. In addition, there is also a small risk of kidney stones, heart attacks and hospitalization due to acute gastrointestinal symptoms.
Therefore, researchers call into question traditional dietary guidelines that require elderly people to ingest at least 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Currently, between 30 and 50% of all women over the age of 50 take such pills on a daily basis, without necessarily having a well-founded reason demanding such a treatment.
Obviously, these findings, which were published on the September issue of BMJ, were received with mixed emotions by health experts. Many of them stand by the view that calcium supplements are essential for combating osteoporosis, which makes bones brittle and fragile.
For instance, supplement manufacturers insist that although benefits may vary from trial to trial, calcium pills have been proven to have a positive effect, especially when coupled with vitamin D and vitamin K.
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the dietary intake of calcium among many Americans is insufficient and therefore supplements can assist with this deficit.
On the other hand, supporters of this recent study warn that excessive intake of calcium and vitamin D heightens the risk of hip fractures, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality. Therefore, treatment plans should be personalized, to address the exact needs of every patient.
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