+AA
Fr
Back
Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

In people over 50 years of age, calcium supplements have a small effect on preventing fractures

Bolland MJ, Leung W, Tai V, et al. Calcium intake and risk of fracture: systematic review. BMJ. 2015 Sep 29;351:h4580.

Review question

In people over 50 years of age, does increasing calcium in the diet or with supplements affect risk of fractures? See related Evidence Summary of a review by Tai.

Background

Calcium is important for bone health, but people often don’t get enough in the food they eat. As we age, we lose bone mass (osteopenia or osteoporosis) and have greater risk of fractures (broken bones). Doctors often recommend eating more calcium-rich foods or taking calcium supplements to reduce fractures.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review, including studies up to September 2014. They found 26 randomized controlled trials of calcium supplements that included 69 107 people.

The main results were total number of fractures and fractures at the hip, vertebrae (bones of the spinal column), and forearm.

Calcium supplements could be combined with other treatments such as vitamin D as long as both groups received the other treatment.

What the researchers found

3 trials had a low risk of bias; the rest had a higher risk of bias.

Calcium supplements reduced total fractures and vertebral fractures by a small amount but did not affect hip or forearm fractures.

When only studies with low risk of bias were analyzed, there were no differences in fractures between calcium and no calcium groups.

Conclusion

In people over 50 years of age, calcium supplements reduce risk of total and vertebral fractures by a small amount and do not reduce hip or forearm fractures.

Calcium supplements vs no calcium supplements in people over 50 years of age

Outcomes

Number of trials (number of people)

Rate of events with calcium

Rate of events without calcium

Effect of calcium at 1 to 7 years

All fractures

23 trials (58,573 people)

11%

12%

About 1 less person out of 100 had a fracture

Hip fractures

16 trials (56,648 people)

1.7%

1.8%

No difference in hip fractures*

Vertebral fractures

15 trials (48,967 people)

1.3%

1.5%

About 2 fewer people out of 1000 had vertebral fractures

Forearm fractures

10 trials (51,775 people)

2.8%

2.9%

No difference in forearm fractures*

*Although the rates for the 2 groups look different, the differences were not statistically significant. This means that the difference could simply be due to chance rather than due to different treatments.




Glossary

Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Risk of bias
Possibility of some systematic error in the studies.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

  • Preparing for surgery

    Evidently Cochrane
    Bathing with general wash products before surgery to prevent infection has similar benefits to bathing with antiseptic solutions.
  • Preventing deep vein thrombosis

    Evidently Cochrane
    Compression stockings help to prevent deep vein thrombosis (blood clots and swelling) after surgery. You can choose to wear thigh or knee length stockings.
  • Statins: Should I Take Them to Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke?

    OHRI
    This patient decision aid helps people considering taking medicines called statins to lower their risk of heart attack and stroke by comparing the benefits, risks, and side effects of both options. It also includes alternative treatment options to taking statins such as trying to lower risk with lifestyle changes.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Register for free access to all Professional content

Register
Want the latest in aging research? Sign up for our email alerts.
Subscribe
© 2012 - 2019 McMaster University | 1280 Main Street West | Hamilton, Ontario L8S4L8 | +1 905-525-9140 | Terms Of Use