On September 29, 2015, two research articles were published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) concerning the effect of calcium intake on bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture reduction. These have been widely reported in the media.

The full text of the Osteoporosis Canada response can be found on the website at http://www.osteoporosis.ca/calcium-intake-and-effect-on-bone-health-and-fracture-risk-reduction/

The following is a summary of the OC response.

The first study published in the BMJ summarizes the results of 59 earlier studies to evaluate the effects of calcium intake on BMD in people over the age of 50. According to this study, both extra dietary calcium intake and the use of calcium supplements were associated with small increases in BMD. A small reduction in fractures was observed with calcium supplementation. The authors concluded that calcium intake from dietary sources and supplements increase BMD similarly, but that this is unlikely to reduce fractures.

The second study explored whether calcium could reduce fractures. This study did not show a significant reduction in fracture risk in the large randomized trials with calcium supplementation.

The two studies significantly differed in both the numbers of people evaluated and in the quality of the assessments. They also differed in how fractures were identified. As a result, in order to better determine the effects of calcium supplementation on bone health, additional research is needed using well-designed, large, controlled studies.

Every cell in our body requires calcium in order to function normally. Inadequate calcium intake results in the release of calcium from our bones in order to meet our daily requirements. Because of this, Osteoporosis Canada continues to recommend 1000-1200 mg of calcium daily, preferably from dietary sources, and to use supplements only if this is not possible (in the form of calcium carbonate or calcium citrate).

Click here for more detailed information on Osteoporosis Canada’s nutritional recommendations

However, in individuals with osteoporosis or high fracture risk, there is no research evidence supporting the use of calcium supplements alone as a treatment to prevent fractures. Such individuals may require medication in addition to adequate calcium intake and vitamin D supplementation in order to reduce their fracture risk.

Click here for more information on drug treatments for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis Canada’s rapid response team, made up of members of the Scientific Advisory Council, creates position statements as news breaks regarding osteoporosis. The position statements are used to inform both the healthcare professional and the patient. The Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) is made up of experts in Osteoporosis and bone metabolism and is a volunteer membership.