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Vitamin D, calcium pills may not prevent fractures

Wednesday February 27, 2013
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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued a final recommendation on vitamin D and calcium supplements for the prevention of fractures.

The USPSTF recommends against daily supplements of less than 400 IU of vitamin D3 and less than 1,000 milligrams of calcium for the prevention of fractures in postmenopausal women.

Meanwhile, the task force found the current evidence is insufficient to make a recommendation on daily supplements greater than 400 IU of vitamin D3 and greater than 1,000 milligrams of calcium for the prevention of fractures in postmenopausal women. The current evidence also is insufficient to make a recommendation on vitamin D and calcium supplements for the prevention of fractures for men and premenopausal women.

"Vitamin D and calcium are known to play an important role in maintaining health, including bone health," task force member and chair Virginia Moyer, MD, MPH, said in a news release. "However, despite the large number of studies done there are few conclusive answers about the ability of vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent fractures.

"The task force has determined the evidence is inconclusive that higher doses of vitamin D and calcium supplements are effective in preventing fractures in postmenopausal women. The evidence was also inconclusive for fracture prevention in men and premenopausal women.

"What we do know is that doses less than or equal to 400 IU of vitamin D (or 1,000 mg of calcium) are not effective at preventing fractures in postmenopausal women."

The recommendation applies to people who do not have a known vitamin D deficiency or osteoporosis, noted task force member Jessica Herzstein, MD, MPH. "Vitamin D plays a role in a wide range of general health functions, and there appears to be minimal harms in taking vitamin D supplements. Clinicians and patients may take this into consideration when determining whether to recommend or take vitamin D for general health."

Links to the final recommendation statement and related files are available at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsvitd.htm.

Recognizing that vitamin D has benefits beyond the prevention of fractures, the USPSTF has begun evaluating the effectiveness of screening for vitamin D deficiency. The draft research plan for this topic was posted for public comment today and is available at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/tfcomment.htm.


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