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Low Dose Calcium

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force analyzed studies on the effects of vitamin D and calcium pills on bone strength (Annals of Internal Medicine, published online February 26, 2013). They found no evidence that pills containing 400 international units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium help prevent bone fractures. They advise healthy older women not to take these low doses of calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent fractures. Half of post-menopausal women will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetimes.

HIGHER DOSES? Studies on higher doses of calcium and vitamin D are contradictory and therefore, they do not have data to make recommendation for high dose calcium and vitamin D pills.

Calcium is necessary to keep bones strong and vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium. We have no data to show that taking calcium pills, by themselves, helps to prevent or treat osteoporosis or fractures. Calcium pills can increase risk for kidney stones. In some people, calcium pills can raise blood calcium levels. This can cause irregular heartbeats including atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, and sudden death from a heart attack (see the report below).

Vitamin D is necessary for everyone. Food will not provide enough vitamin D to keep you healthy. 1000 to 2000 IU daily is adequate for most people who do not get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS: To keep bones strong, you should eat a healthful diet, exercise, and try to get at least 15 minutes a day of sun exposure. If your blood level of hydroxy Vitamin D is below 75 nmol/L, you may need to take vitamin D pills or get more sunlight. Instead of taking calcium pills, eat calcium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, beans, sardines and low- fat dairy products.

Checked 2/22/15

March 28th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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