Press Releases: National
February 15, 2006
Calcium and Vitamin D Offer Modest Bone Benefits
Study with Kaiser Permanente researchers appears in New England Journal of Medicine
OAKLAND, Calif. – Calcium and Vitamin D supplements offer healthy postmenopausal women some improvements in preserving bone mass and reducing hip fractures in certain groups of women, but they do not prevent other types of fractures or reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer. These findings appear in two articles in the Feb. 16 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
The results are from the Calcium with Vitamin D (CaD) trial, which is part of the Women's Health Initiative. The WHI is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at 40 clinical sites nationwide, including Kaiser Permanente, followed 36,282 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 for more than 7 years. Half the women received a daily dose of 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate combined with 400 IUs of vitamin D. The other half received a placebo.
"Overall, the most important message to women," says Bette Caan, DrPH, a co-author on both articles and an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., "is that all women should have an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D to preserve their bone health, whether it comes from dietary sources or supplements."
The study found that women who took calcium combined with vitamin D had 1 percent more hip bone density compared with women taking a placebo. Women who consistently took their supplements benefited most and experienced a 29 percent decrease in hip fractures. Women older than 60 had a significant 21 percent reduction in hip fractures. However, the supplements had no significant effect on spine or total fractures.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements had no detectable effect on the incidence of colorectal cancer. Overall, the supplements were well tolerated by the participants. The only adverse effect was a 17 percent increase in kidney stones.
"I have two suggestions for older women based on these findings," says Evelyn Whitlock, MD, MPH, principal investigator for WHI at Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research and a co-author of both articles. "If you are a postmenopausal woman between the ages of 50 and 79, do not expect calcium and vitamin D supplements to lower your risk of colorectal cancer. The best thing is to make sure you get regular screenings. Secondly, taking these supplements increased hip bone density in only women over age 60 and women who took the full supplement. If your goal is to reduce your risk of hip fracture by taking supplements, make sure you take the full recommended dose every day; for women over age 50, that's 1,200 milligrams of calcium carbonate and 600 IUs of vitamin D3."
Kaiser Permanente has research offices in California, Oregon, Hawaii, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, and Ohio. Results of research conducted by Kaiser Permanente physicians and investigators have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Permanente Journal, the American Journal of Public Health, Pediatrics, and other clinical journals.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: www.kp.org/newscenter.