Should we prescribe calcium or vitamin D supplements to treat or prevent osteoporosis?

Climacteric. 2015;18 Suppl 2:22-31. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2015.1098266. Epub 2015 Oct 16.

Abstract

Systematic reviews of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the highest level of evidence to inform clinical practice. Meta-analyses of large RCTs of calcium and/or vitamin D supplements completed in the last 15 years provide strong evidence for clinical recommendations. These meta-analyses with data for > 50,000 older adults reported that calcium with or without vitamin D has only weak, inconsistent effects on fracture, and that vitamin D without calcium has no effect on fracture. Only one RCT of co-administered calcium and vitamin D in frail, institutionalized, elderly women with low dietary calcium intake and vitamin D levels showed significant reductions in fracture risk. These RCTs have also reported previously unrecognized adverse events of calcium supplements including kidney stones, myocardial infarction, hypercalcemia, and hospitalization with acute gastrointestinal symptoms. The small risk of these important adverse effects, together with the moderate risk of minor side-effects such as constipation, probably outweighs any benefits of calcium supplements on fracture. These data suggest the role for calcium and vitamin D supplements in osteoporosis management is very limited. Neither calcium nor vitamin D supplements should be recommended for fracture prevention in community-dwelling adults, although vitamin D should be considered for prevention of osteomalacia in at-risk individuals.

Keywords: CALCIUM; OSTEOPOROSIS; PREVENTION; SUPPLEMENTS; TREATMENT; VITAMIN D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Calcium, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / drug therapy
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control*
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / drug therapy
  • Osteoporotic Fractures / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / adverse effects
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control

Substances

  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D