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Calcium supplements cut fracture risk

Calcium supplementation reduces the risk of bone fracture and bone loss in older people, a 'practice-changing' study has shown.

The analysis of 29 randomised trials, published in the latest edition of The Lancet, found that calcium supplements, or calcium with vitamin D, cut fractures by up to 24%.

Osteoporosis experts said the meta-analysis had the potential to alter care of older people as it demonstrated calcium supplementation was effective at doses over 1,200mg a day.

Researchers led by Dr Benjamin Tang at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, found a 12% risk reduction in all the trials, which had a total patient population of 63,897.

The reduction in fracture risk was significantly higher – 24% – in trials where patients complied with treatment.

The treatment effects were greater with calcium doses of over 1,200mg, compared with doses of less than 1,200mg (20% compared with 6%), and were higher when patients took more than 800 international units of vitamin D.

Dr Pam Brown, a GP in Swansea and member of the primary care forum of the National Osteoporosis Society, said: 'This does have the potential to change practice.'

But she warned: 'It is going to be unrealistic to treat everyone over 50 with calcium.'

Patients with low bone density, but not osteoporosis, or those under 65 on steroids who would previously not have qualified for treatment with bisphosphonates, could be candidates for treatment with higher doses of calcium, she said.

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