Supplement Confusion

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 9:50am

New report finds benefits of Vitamin D and calcium supplements unclear.

Many Americans take daily calcium and Vitamin-D supplements because they've heard they can lower the risk for broken bones and possibly help prevent some cancers, but after reviewing studies of whether those supplements do as promised a government advisory panel now says postmenopasual women should not take anything lower than 400 international units of Vitamin-D and 1000 mg of calcium.

"That level of Vitamin-D supplementation to the diet is not effective for preventing fracture," says Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

The experts say there's not enough evidence to come to a conclusion on whether higher doses might be beneficial for women who have gone through menopause, or if any dose would prevent a bone break in men and younger women.

"Whenever we think about those types of preventive therapies we set the bar pretty high. We want to know that those therapies are going to be effective at preventing what we're seeking to prevent," says Dr. Bibbins-Domingo.

They did find a small increased risk for kidney stones among people taking the supplements.

The report also looked at whether the supplements could lower the risk for cancer and came up with very little.

"Its a hot topic in oncology right now, but we just don't have enough evidence to recommend that our patients take this to prevent or treat cancer," says Dr. Ashley Sumrall, an oncologist with the Carolinas Healthcare System.

The experts say eating foods like leafy greens, yogurt and milk can boost your calcium and Vitamin-D levels naturally.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, which represents the supplement industry, says calcium and Vitamin-D can be beneficial for people who don't get enough of the nutrients from their diet.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does believe Vitamin-D can prevent falls among people over 65.

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