(Australian Associated Press)
Increasing calcium intake is unlikely to improve bone health or prevent fractures in older people, say researchers.
Medical experts therefore should stop recommending an increased intake – either through diet or supplements – for fracture or osteoporosis prevention.
“For most patients who are concerned about their bone health, they do not need to worry about their calcium intake,” says lead researcher Dr Mark Bolland.
The University of Auckland Associate Professor of Medicine and his team carried out two studies on people aged over 50, with results published in The British Medical Journal.
The first study showed that increasing calcium intake produced increases in bone mineral density of one to two per cent, which was unlikely to significantly lower the risk of fracture, Dr Bolland said.
“The second study found that dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures.”
Guidelines advise older people to take at least 1000-1200 mg/day of calcium to improve bone density and prevent fractures.
Recent concerns about the safety of calcium supplements have led experts to recommend increasing calcium intake through food rather than by taking supplements, but the effect on bone health was unknown.
In an accompanying editorial, Professor Karl Michaelsson, from Uppsala University in Sweden, said it was time to revisit recommendations to increase calcium intake beyond a normal balanced diet.
He says that ever-increasing intakes of calcium and vitamin D recommended by some guidelines defines virtually the whole population aged over 50 at risk.
“Most will not benefit from increasing their intakes and will be exposed instead to a higher risk of adverse events such as constipation, cardiovascular events, kidney stones, or admission for acute gastrointestinal symptoms.
“The weight of evidence against such mass medication of older people is now compelling, and it is surely time to reconsider these controversial recommendations.”