June 2018

Do you really need those calcium and vitamin D supplements?

If your goal is to prevent fractures, probably not. Despite common belief that it helps, taking vitamin D supplements, alone or with calcium, doesn’t seem to prevent fractures in older people who are not at risk. As of April 2018, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated recommendations stating that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements for older people without vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, or a history of fractures.

But many people keep taking these supplements anyway. And they might actually be doing more harm than good. There’s evidence that taking these supplements - even at lower doses (1000 mg daily) - might increase the risk of kidney stones. For patients worried about fractures but who aren't high risk, recommend more effective prevention strategies, such as exercise. But continue to recommend vitamin D and calcium for patients with a higher fracture risk, including those with vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, or a history of fractures. These patients should continue to get 1000-1200 mg of calcium and 800-1000 IU of vitamin D per day to help prevent fractures.

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