Skip Vitamin D and Calcium Supplements and Exercise Instead, Say Researchers

According to a recent research, many older adults take calcium and vitamin D supplements in vain, and those who take large doses even harm their health. A review of latest studies showed that such supplements are useless, as far as fall and fracture prevention is concerned. It is another piece of evidence demonstrating that dietary supplements are not beneficial.

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As the population is aging rapidly – and US citizens are no exception – more and more seniors fall, which leads to injuries. One of such serious injuries is hip fracture, which is likely to result in disability, especially if the patient is 65 or older. In an attempt to prevent fractures and falls, people are often advised to take calcium and vitamin D supplements, which were once reported to be able to benefit bones even in seniors. However, it appears that the advice does not stand up to scrutiny.

Another supplement failure

A team of American experts from various universities and institutes issued new recommendations on how to help prevent falls and fractures in patients aged 65 or older, based on the scientific evidence accumulated over the years of research. They came to a conclusion that could mean billions of dollars were spent in vain, as the dietary supplement industry is thriving.

These recommendations are only for those seniors that belong to the “community dwelling” group, i.e. they do not live in special facilities and care centers. Besides, the urge to skip such dietary supplements concerns only those who do not suffer from any bone disorder, including but not limited to osteopenia or osteoporosis, as well as those for whom the risk of bone disorders is not higher than average.

Disappointing findings

In their analysis, the researchers report that as of this moment, there is not enough evidence to support efficacy of calcium and vitamin D supplements, either when taken separately or together. The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 IU; for calcium, the figure is 1,000 mg.

The scientists found that there is not enough data to prove taking either of or both these supplements can contribute to prevention of fractures in pre- and postmenopausal women, and men. This is true even of high doses.

Besides, postmenopausal women do not seem to benefit from taking the daily dose of each or less. Instead, these supplements are associated with an increase in the risk of kidney stone formation.

So what IS beneficial?

While supplements appear to be quite useless – and sometimes even dangerous – it is regular exercising that can help prevent falls and fractures, researchers say. Such measures may include training for gait, flexibility, endurance, balance, strength, etc. Training three times a week is said to be the optimal way to exercise. Vision testing could benefit as well.

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Altering the environment an elderly person lives in can also help prevent falls: removing obstacles, changing their diet, improving hearing and vision using special devices, maintaining oral hygiene, etc. Australian researchers have already tested a special program for seniors, which is focused on fall prevention.

Although dietary supplements may not be as beneficial as they have been considered for a long time, getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and calcium from food is a must, since they are required by the body to maintain proper functioning. Eating a balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis are a healthier and more natural option than trying to compensate for our lifestyles by taking pills.

It must be noted that some people are prescribed and thus should take calcium and vitamin D supplements due to deficits or some conditions. Consult your doctor whether you can take any supplements, and do not stop taking them if you have been prescribed some or one of them. Exercising is beneficial for everyone, though – just make sure you have chosen the right training program that fits your health condition.

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