ABC News Says “Calcium and Vitamin D Not Needed” – What is the scientific truth?

On November 29th 2019, ABC News featured in an article entitled “Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Not Necessary for Healthy Adults” a recent review that was published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The paper is entitled “Controversies in Medicine: The Role of Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements in Adults”.

Unfortunately, The ABC News article provided misleading information which emphasised two points: A new study which found vitamins to have little value for individuals who are not vitamin deficient; and, calcium supplements possibly causing harm and and having no place in modern medicine.

The research reported that some studies demonstrated that supplementation of calcium and vitamin D has little effect to prevent osteoporosis and bone fracture. It is important to note that ALL studies do show an effect. The studies that concluded minimal benefits were done on participants who were vitamin replete, and those studies that showed great benefits were done on those who were deficient in calcium and vitamin D. Osteoporosis Australia endorses supplementation of calcium at dosages of 500mg per day to 600mg per day — safe and effective doses for individuals who have calcium-deficient diet.

Furthermore, the ABC News article failed to mention these positive points:

  • The Chapuy Study, wherein 3000 elderly women, with an average age of 84, were randomly given either calcium and vitamin D, or placebo. For the group who were given the treatment, hip ad bone density increased by 7.3%, and hip fractures reduced to 23% after 18 months.
  • In patients who have osteomalacia or those who have an increased risk of hypocalcaemia, calcium and vitamin D supplementation is an accepted practice by medical professionals.
  • Vitamin D is able to increase bone density when vitamin D levels are less than 25 to 30 nmol/L.
  • When there is significant vitamin D deficiency, supplementation is highly advised.

The effect of calcium carbonate for those who have sufficient levels of calcium may be minimal, which may be the reason for reduced efficacy. Calcium carbonate relies on whether gastric acid secretion is adequate. Secretion of gastric acid decreases with age, and in those who have digestive disturbances. This causes calcium’s effectivity to diminish as well. The good news is that a highly bio-available bone extract – the microcrystalline hydroxyapatatite bone extract or MCHA – is able to provide soluble calcium that can support bone density particularly in patients who have primary and secondary osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, fractures, and even in those who may have mineral deficiency or a increased mineral requirement such use those who are pregnant, lactating, or elderly.

Australian and New Zealand population sadly fails to meet the recommended dietary requirement for calcium. The safe and effective dosage for supplementation calcium, as recommended by Osteoporosis Australia, is 500mg/d to 600 mg/d. Furthermore, over 30% of Australian adults have a mild to moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency.

While individuals who have sufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D need little improvement in their intake of the said nutrients, there is enough evidence to support their use in order to prevent and treat osteoporosis and bone fracture for people who are deficient in or have an increased need of these nutrients. To ensure that the patient is given safe and adequate dosage, it is highly recommended to talk to a qualified practitioner in order to be assessed accurately.

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