Vitamin D and calcium supplements may not prevent bone fractures

David Donald

Focusing on a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium early in life may benefit the bones more than supplements later in life.

A recent investigation into whether or not vitamin D and calcium supplements protect the bones against fractures in older adults has upended more than a decade of medical advice.

Because the world’s aging population is growing, the risk of bone fractures is increasing, and this has prompted a public health concern and renewed efforts to explore the effects vitamin supplementation has on bones.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 33 randomized clinical trials involving more than 50,000 adults over the age of 50. They compared calcium, vitamin D or both with a placebo as well as those who received no treatment at all.  Researchers at Jia-Guo-Zhao of Tianjin Hospital in China, however, solely focused their attention on adults who live in communities and not assisted living facilities, nursing homes or hospitals.

They concluded routine use of vitamin D and calcium supplements, regardless of dose, does not prevent bone fractures.

The study bolsters advice some health experts have been giving for years about Vitamin D and Calcium supplements.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an influential federal advisory body, questioned the use of supplements in 2013 by issuing a recommendation saying current evidence shows vitamin D and calcium supplements do no benefit older adults without osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency.

Some nutritionists have warned clinicians against advising their healthy older patients to take vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Marion Nestle, a professor emerita of food sciences and nutrition at New York University, wrote in an opinion piece that eating healthy and staying active were the best things to do for bones.

“Bone preservation throughout life requires eating healthfully, engaging in weight bearing activity, avoiding excessive alcohol and not smoking – good advice for everyone,” Nestle wrote.

Get vitamin D and calcium with food not pills

Supplements can beexpensive and there are other ways you can get vitamin D and calcium. You have to eat, so might as well get it from food.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for Vitamin D is 600 IU

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for Calcium is between 1,000 and 1,300 mg


Foods rich in Vitamin D (hope you like seafood)


  • Salmon ( one 3.5 oz serving contains between 361 and 685 IU)
  • Herring and Sardines ( one 3.5 oz serving of sardines has 272 IU)
  • Cod Liver Oil ( one teaspoon has about 450 IU)
  • Oysters ( one 3.5 oz serving contains 320 IU)
  • Shrimp ( one serving is about 152 IU)
  • Egg Yolks
  • Mushrooms (one serving can contain between 130-450 IU, depending on the variety)
  • Fortified Foods, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereal and oatmeal ( fortified foods can contain up to 40 percent of RDI)


Foods rich in calcium (mostly plants)

foods with calcium

  • Milk ( a 1 cup serving contains 300mg)
  • Kale (a 1 cup serving cooked contains 245 mg)
  • Sardines ( a 2 oz serving contains 217 mg)
  • Yogurt or Kefir (a 6 oz serving contains 300mg)
  • Broccoli (a 1 1/2 cup serving cooked contains 93mg)
  • Watercress (a 1 cup serving contains 41mg)
  • Cheese (a 1 oz serving contains 224mg)
  • Bok Choy (a 1 cup serving contains 74mg)
  • Okra (a 1 cup serving contains 82mg)
  • Almonds (a 1 oz serving contains 76mg)

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