If you’ve been taking Vitamin D and calcium to make strong bones, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has bad news. According to their most recent recommendation, you’ve probably been wasting your money. They said that there is little or no evidence that supplemental vitamin D3 or calcium do much to prevent fractures in healthy men, premenopausal women, or even postmenopausal women who live independently.
Their recommendations were released in late February in Annals of Internal Medicine as well as being published on their website. The advice comes fast on the heels of another recent report that some vitamin D supplements contain inconsistent amounts of the so-called “sunshine” vitamin.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) fact sheet says that vitamin D and calcium do make a difference — if you’re 62 or older, and if you take higher quantities than most people do. NIH said that 700-800 International Units per day of Vitamin D3 and 500 to 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium protected “elderly” people from bone fractures. Although it’s unclear if the USPSTF is referring to the same study, they also commented that the supplements have been proven to help fragile old people who are already in assisted living and other institutional situations.
In Megan Greenlaw’s past report for The Inquistr, she noted that there’s a frustrating thing about D. An obese people is more likely be deficient in the vitamin than a person of normal weight. However, even if the person addresses their deficiency by consuming more vitamin D, they don’t lose the weight.
And just in case you think we’re picking on vitamin D a little too much, what about all that calcium? The truth is that doctors have known for years that people have trouble absorbing the mineral in the first place. A 2003 Harvard Health Letter said flat out:
“You don’t absorb large doses of calcium as efficiently as you do small ones. Thus, much of a 1,000-mg tablet is going to waste. Change how you think about calcium. High intake is not the surefire ticket to bone health that it has been made out to be.”
The amount of the calcium taken in the USPSTF study? You guessed it. 1,000 milligrams.
If vitamin D and calcium don’t really do much for most people, why the heck do we all spend so much money on them? In a word, marketing. According to Katharine Greider for the AARP Bulletin, sales of vitamin D alone skyrocketed from $42 milliion in sales in 2002 to $605 million in 2011 — a staggering 14-fold increase.
Vitamin D and calcium may, or may not, make strong bones, but they’re making strong bank accounts for the supplement sellers.