Calcium Supplements Do Not Prevent Bone Fractures Interview with:
Dr. Mark J Bolland
Associate professor of medicine
Department of Medicine
University of Auckland
Auckland New Zealand

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Bolland: Many guidelines advise older people to take at least 1000-1200 mg/day of calcium to improve bone density and prevent fractures. The average calcium intake in most countries is a lot less than these recommendations, and so many people take calcium supplements to increase their calcium intake. However, recent concerns about the safety of calcium supplements have led experts to recommend increasing calcium intake through food rather than by taking supplements, even though the effect of increasing dietary calcium intake on bone health had not been clearly established. Our study was designed to fill this evidence gap.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Bolland: Firstly, we found that increasing calcium intake either from the diet or by taking calcium supplements led to similar, small, one-off increases in bone density of 1-2%. These increases do not build up over time and are too small to produce significant reductions in the chance of having a fracture.

Secondly, the level of dietary calcium intake is not associated with the risk of having a fracture.

Thirdly, in clinical trials, calcium supplements have only small, inconsistent benefits on preventing fractures, with no effect on fractures seen in the highest quality trials

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Bolland: Clinicians, advocacy organizations and health policymakers should not recommend increasing calcium intake for fracture prevention, either by use of calcium supplements or through dietary sources. For most patients who are concerned about their bone health, they do not need to worry about their calcium intake.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Bolland: Many countries have recommendations for dietary intake. Recommendations for calcium intake in older people have been based around bone health. Since our study shows that there is actually no evidence of an important relationship between calcium intake and bone health in older people, these dietary recommendations should be revised and the science underpinning these recommendations re-examined.

Related to this issue, it would be very worthwhile to explore why the recommendations for calcium intake have been so inconsistent with the available evidence, and whether this applies to other dietary recommendations as well.


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Dr. Mark J Bolland (2015). Calcium Supplements Do Not Prevent Bone Fractures