Adding vitamin D to regular calcium supplements produces long-term improvements in the bone density of elderly women, say researchers from Australia.
In this study, 120 women between 70 and 80 years old were followed for one year to determine the bone benefits of calcium with or without vitamin D. The women were given 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day with a placebo pill or a vitamin D tablet, or two placebo tablets.
After five years, only the women who took calcium with vitamin D maintained their original bone density. Those assigned to calcium only or placebo pills experience age-related bone loss.
This study's authors say adequate vitamin D intake is necessary for calcium to do its job in keeping bones healthy. Research has shown that vitamin D can increase calcium absorption by up to 80 percent.
In Canada, one in four women and one in eight men over 50 suffer from osteoporosis, a disease characterized by increased bone fragility and risk of fracture.
Osteoporosis Canada recommends 800 IU of vitamin D per day for women over 50 consume. One glass (250 ml) of fortified milk provides 100 IU of vitamin D. Other foods sources of this bone-building nutrient include margarine, eggs, and oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring.
Getting enough vitamin D from food alone can be difficult. If you're concerned with your calcium and vitamin D intake, a registered dietitian can help you decide if a supplement is right for you.
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