USPSTF advises against vitamin D, calcium to prevent fractures in healthy adults

May 21, 2013

After its recent review, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) could not recommend vitamin D and calcium supplementation for the primary prevention of fractures in healthy adults.

After its recent review, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) could not recommend supplementation with vitamin D and calcium for the primary prevention of fractures in healthy adults.

The USPSTF made its recommendations in the May 7, 2013 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study was led by Virginia A. Moyer, MD, MPH, on behalf of the USPSTF.

The organization commissioned two systematic evidence reviews and a meta-analysis on vitamin D supplementation with or without calcium to assess the effects of supplementation on bone health outcomes in "community-dwelling adults" and the adverse effect of supplementation.

The USPSTF considered six randomized trials that evaluated the use of vitamin D and calcium supplementation. Fewer than 26% of the community-dwelling adults studied had a history of fractures. In the studies, researchers found no statistically signficant reduction in fractures.

In the largest study, of 36,282 healthy postmenopausal women, dubbed WHI, nearly 30% of study participants were already taking 500 mg or more of calcium daily before the state of the trial. “The USPSTF could not generalize the results of the WHI trial beyond the specific dose, preparation, and population studied,” stated USPSTF in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

As a result, “The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of the benefits and harms of daily supplementation with greater than 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg or less of calcium for the primary prevention of fractures in noninstitutionalized postmenopausal women.” 

The USPSTF recommends against daily supplementation with 400 IU or less of vitamin D and 1,000 mg or less of calcium for the primary prevention of fractures in noninstitutionalized postmenopausal women.

However, the USPSTF previously concluded in a separate recommendation that vitamin D supplementation is effective in preventing falls in community-dwelling adults aged 65 years or older who are at increased risk for falls.