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Calcium Supplement Effects Studied in Older Women

Calcium and vitamin D supplements didn't slow physical decline over seven-year study period

MONDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D doesn't appear to protect older women from declines in physical functioning, according to research published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Robert L. Brunner, Ph.D., of the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno, and colleagues analyzed data from 33,067 women, aged 50 to 79, participating in the Women's Health Initiative. Women were randomized to receive 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate plus 400 IU vitamin D3 daily or placebo, and their physical functioning was assessed over a mean 7.1 years, starting before randomization. Physical functioning was measured with self-report questionnaires and, in a subset of women, tests of grip strength, chair stands and timed walk.

Calcium and vitamin D supplementation wasn't associated with improvement or slowed decline in physical function over this period as measured by self-report or objective evaluation, the researchers report.

"Because the level of vitamin D supplementation, which was considered adequate at the time this trial began, is now considered low, caution is warranted in statements about potential efficacy of vitamin D in maintaining or improving physical function. This study included relatively healthy women, and the conclusion of lack of benefit should not be extended to higher risk groups," the authors write.

Several of the study co-authors disclosed financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

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