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Calcium and vitamin D supplements may not be as beneficial as we think, study finds

Taking a modest-dose of calcium and vitamin D supplements doesn't seem to prevent bone fractures in healthy older women, according to the findings of an expert panel that provides advice to the U.S. government on health matters.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed the existing evidence for a daily dose of 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D and concluded that this combination offered no clear benefit in terms of fraction reduction in post-menopausal women. To make matters worse, calcium tablets could increase the risk of developing kidney stones.

The expert panel members did not pass judgment on higher doses or whether the pills could be of help to men. They cited a lack of evidence to draw firm conclusions.

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"Regrettably we don't have as much information as we would like," Dr. Virgina Moyer, the head of the task force, told the Associated Press. "Turns out, there is a lot more to learn."

The task force's recommendations, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, may come as a big surprise to many consumers who have been told that calcium and vitamin D helps build strong bones. Supplements containing these two ingredients are top sellers.

Even so, calcium has been at the centre of a growing medical controversy. Some studies have linked high-dose supplements to an increase risk of cardiovascular disease. The task force did not express an opinion on this matter.

The recommendations are aimed at healthy individuals. So there are some people who might still benefit from supplements. That includes those with existing osteoporosis or the elderly living in nursing homes who may be at elevated risk of a fall and breaking a bone. The best thing to do is consult a physician or health-care practitioner to determine if this advice applies to you.

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