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The University of Southampton

Calcium and vitamin supplements no help in fracture prevention for the elderly

Published: 28 April 2005

A new study published in the latest edition of The Lancet has found no evidence to suggest that Vitamin D and calcium supplements prevent secondary fractures in elderly people.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) funded RECORD study (Randomised Evaluation of Calcium or Vitamin D) was carried out by a group of UK investigators, including a team from the University of Southampton, to discover whether calcium and vitamin D have a role to play in strengthening bones and preventing injury from falls.

The study was made up of 5292 people aged 70 or over who had suffered a fracture in the last 10 years. Participants were studied for up to five years, were randomly assigned to four equal groups and asked to take two tablets with meals daily. The first group received 800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D3, the second received 1000mg calcium, the third a dose of vitamin D3 (800 IU) combined with calcium (1000mg), and the fourth group received a placebo.

Overall the trial found that the incidence of new fractures did not significantly differ between those allocated vitamin D3 versus no vitamin D3, calcium versus no calcium and the combined treatment versus placebo.

Professor Adrian Grant of the University of Aberdeen, principal investigator of the trial, said: "We have found no evidence to suggest that calcium and vitamin supplements have a medical role to play as the only treatment in the prevention of secondary bone fractures. Instead we need to consider other strategies for secondary fracture prevention, including pharmacological intervention with drugs such as bisphosphonates that help maintain bone density and reduce fractures."

Professor Cyrus Cooper, Southampton lead investigator and a member of the Trial Management Group, commented: "This trial represents one of the largest and best conducted studies of calcium and vitamin D supplementation to date. It clearly demonstrates that this type of treatment will need to be combined with other agents (such as bisphosphonates, raloxifene or strontium ranelate) to reduce fracture risk. The data will be invaluable to the Department of Health in generating national guidelines for treatment of patients with osteoporosis."

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Notes for editors

  1. Professor Cyrus Cooper is Director of the MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre at the University of Southampton. He is also Associate Director of Research at the Universitys Medical School.
  2. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.
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