Boosting Calcium Intake a Mistake, Say Experts

For years, older men and women have been advised to improve bone density and prevent fractures by increasing their calcium intake, with supplements or with foods high in calcium such as broccoli, to total 1000 to 1200 mg, per day.

Now, experts say that’s not only unnecessary but not recommended.

Increasing calcium intake is unlikely to boost bone health or prevent fractures in older people, say experts, and increasing intake through diet or supplements should not be recommended for fracture prevention.

That’s the conclusion of two studies published this week in The British Medical Journal.

In the first study, they found that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources or by taking supplements produces small (1 to 2 per cent) increases in bone mineral density, which “are unlikely to lead to a clinically meaningful reduction in risk of fracture.”

In the second study, they found that dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures.

It is time to revisit recommendations to increase calcium intake beyond a normal balanced diet, argues Karl Michaëlsson from Uppsala University in Sweden, in an accompanying editorial in the BMJ.

He points out that ever increasing intakes of calcium and vitamin D recommended by some guidelines defines virtually the whole population aged over 50 at risk. Yet most will not benefit from increasing their intakes, he warns, and will be exposed instead to a higher risk of adverse events.

“The weight of evidence against such mass medication of older people is now compelling, and it is surely time to reconsider these controversial recommendations,” he concludes.