Study reveals vitamin D and calcium combined have much larger effect on bone health

June 13, 2014

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For years, it has been known that calcium can help improve bone health for those with a high risk of fragility fractures.

For years, it has been known that calcium can help improve bone health for those with a high risk of fragility fractures. Recently, a study was conducted to test the combined effects of calcium and vitamin D, another nutrient well-correlated to strengthening bones.

The review, conducted by The Cochrane Library, evaluated several studies and found that a combination of vitamin D and calcium can help people over the age of 65 prevent common bone fractures.

Each year, more than 52 million people suffer fragility fractures as a result of having brittle bones or osteoporosis, the National Osteoporosis Foundation stated. Those fractures often occur in the hip or even the spine.

Putting it all together
The review examined more than 53 studies with close to 92,000 participants in total, according to the Health Behavior News Service of the Center for Advancing Health. The studies tested whether vitamin D would help bone health individually, or if vitamin D combined with calcium would work more effectively. The participants were categorized into three groups - one that tested vitamin D alone, one that tested vitamin D with calcium and one that received a placebo pill to compare the effects. The reviewers found that vitamin D alone did not lower the risk of fractures for participants, but vitamin D with calcium did in about nine of the studies.

The reviewers noted that there are caveats for some people. They suggested consulting a doctor before supplementing a diet with vitamin D and calcium for people with kidney stones, or who have heart or gastrointestinal disease.

Then lies the question of how to find these sources and add them to a daily regimen. Luckily, there are a few ways to find both the vitamin and the mineral.

Getting your daily dose
There are daily recommendations for each, and most people don't receive the adequate amount each day. The daily intake of calcium for a person over age 65 should be 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams, according to the National Institutes of Health. For vitamin D, the recommended intake is 800-1,000 International Units.

The NOF stated that calcium can be found in a variety of dairy foods, like milk, yogurt and cheese. Vitamin D is a little harder to find in nature, so often foods like milk are supplemented with it. The best source of the vitamin is the sun, but that can be difficult depending on season and location.

Of course, the easiest route is a supplement each day, as was used in the studies that were reviewed. Many come as a calcium pill with a little Vitamin D added. The pill often contains 600 mg of calcium and 500 IU of vitamin D. Usually, one a day is all that is necessary, but for those over 71, two may be necessary, the NOF noted. The supplements come in a variety of forms, like a chewable pill or as a liquid. These products are best absorbed with food, and should use words like "purified" or show the United States Pharmacopeia symbol, known as USP. People should consult a doctor or pharmacist to find the best one for them.

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