Increased Calcium Intake Neither Boosts BMD nor Reduces Fracture Risk

In two separate studies published recently in the BMJ, New Zealand researchers concluded that increased calcium intake, through diet or supplements, is unlikely to have clinically meaningful effects on bone density or fracture prevention. The findings call into question recommendations from most health care professionals for daily calcium intake of at least 1,000 to 1,200 mg in older adults.

The first study reviewed 59 randomized controlled trials (nearly 14,000 patients total) that examined the association between bone mineral density (BMD) and either dietary or supplemental sources of calcium. Increases in BMD ranged from only 0.6% to 1.8% with increased calcium intake, regardless of the source and whether calcium was taken with vitamin D. The authors concluded that these small BMD effects were “unlikely to translate into clinically meaningful reductions in fractures.”

The second study reviewed 28 randomized trials and 44 observational studies (more than 58.000 patients total) that examined the relationship between increased calcium intake and fracture prevention among people older than 50 years. The analysis found that calcium supplements have “small inconsistent benefits on fracture prevention” but that overall “there is currently no evidence that increasing calcium intake prevents fractures.”

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