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Older Women Should Not Take Calcium, Vitamin D: Task Force
Date:6/13/2012

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- A leading U.S. government advisory panel has proposed that postmenopausal women not take low-dose calcium and vitamin D supplements daily to ward off bone fractures.

But the jury is still out on higher doses of these supplements, stated the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which issued the draft recommendations Tuesday. Public comment on the draft recommendations is invited until July 10.

The news was a bit of a bombshell, given that women have been told for so long to take calcium and vitamin D, said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. "What we're really seeing is no role for calcium for the prevention of osteoporotic fractures. At this point, there's no reason to be taking calcium," she noted.

But, the issue of which women should take which supplements is a complicated one and these preliminary recommendations are unlikely to change practice immediately, said Dr. Shiri Levy, service chief of endocrinology at West Bloomfield Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan, who already tells her patients to get calcium from food sources as much as possible.

"Taking calcium naturally in the diet is probably the best way for patients who don't have lactose intolerance and can drink milk and eat dairy products," she said. "For those not able to take dairy products regularly, then we would supplement to the degree that we can. I would individualize it for patients."

And, Levy pointed out, data from the landmark Women's Health Initiative study did indicate that women on supplements showed a decreased risk for fractures.

As Steinbaum noted, millions of women take vitamin D supplements with or without calcium in the hopes of diminishing the risk of fractures as they age.

According to previous research,
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