Contact: Tom Capezzuto
UMDNJ Researcher Says Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements Offer Modest Bone Improvements, No Benefits for Colorectal Cancer in Postmenopausal Women
–NIH Findings Reported in Feb. 16 Issue of The New England Journal of Medicine–
(2/15/06)—Healthy postmenopausal women can derive a modest benefit from supplements of calcium and vitamin D that may prevent hip fractures, but they will not prevent other types of fractures or colorectal cancer, says a researcher at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who was a principal investigator in a nationwide study conducted by the National Institutes of Health.
The results of the study, called the Calcium with Vitamin D trial, are published in the February 16 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Two accompanying editorials also appear in the edition.
“This clinical trial provides guidance for postmenopausal women on the risks and benefits of diet supplementation with vitamin D and calcium,” said Dr. Norman L. Lasser, a preventive cardiologist and director of the Women’s Health Initiative study at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark. “The overall results suggest that women over age 60 should consider taking vitamin D to preserve bone mass, but they should not expect these supplements to help prevent colorectal cancer.”
The seven-year study involved 36,282 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79 and showed that 1 percent of the women who took the vitamin supplements had higher hip bone density compared to those taking the placebo. Half of the participants received daily doses of 1,000 milligrams of calcium carbonate combined with 400 IUs of vitamin D; the other half received placebo pills.
Calcium and vitamin D supplements provided no detectable effect on the incidence of colorectal cancer. There were similar rates of cancer in both the calcium/vitamin D and placebo groups.
During the trial, 374 women had hip fractures with a fracture rate of 14 per 10,000 cases per year in the supplemental group compared to 16 per 10,000 per year in the placebo group.
“This 12 percent reduction in the incidence of hip fractures in those taking the supplements was not statistically significant, but women who consistently took the full supplement dose experienced a significant 29 percent decrease in hip fractures,” Dr. Lasser said.
The trial was designed to study the effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in preventing hip fractures with secondary study objectives testing the effect of the vitamin supplements on spine and other fractures, as well as colorectal cancer, in postmenopausal women. Participants in this study had previously enrolled in one or both of the WHI trials of hormone therapy or dietary modification, Dr. Lasser noted.
The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a unit of the National Institutes of Health responsible for organizing and overseeing research associated with the Women’s Health Initiative study conducted at 40 sites in the U.S., including the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School. A total of 1,100 women registered in the Newark-based vitamin study led by Dr. Lasser.
The study showed that women older than 60 had a significant 21 percent reduction in hip fractures. Dr. Lasser noted that the supplements had no significant effect on spine or total fractures. Side effects from the supplements included a 17 percent increase in kidney stones.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Lasser, call Tom Capezzuto at (973) 972-7273.