Researchers link taking calcium, vitamin D doses with longer life

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NEW YORK -- Older adults who take vitamin D and calcium supplements may live longer than their peers, a new research review suggests.

Researchers found that older adults who were given vitamin D and calcium supplements were 9 percent less likely to die over three years than those given placebo pills.

Vitamin D on its own, however, showed no effect on death rates.

The findings are based on data from eight past clinical trials — where people were randomly assigned to take vitamin D (with or without calcium) or get inactive placebos for comparison.

Those types of studies offer the strongest kind of evidence on whether the supplements have health effects or not, said Dr. Lars Rejnmark, the lead researcher on the review.

A 9-percent dip in death risk over a three-year period might sound small. To put it in context, Rejnmark's team — some of whom have connections to supplement makers that market vitamin D and calcium products — estimates that to prevent one death, 151 older adults would have to take vitamin D and calcium for three years.

But that effect is “at least as pronounced” as the benefits linked to cholesterol-lowering statins and blood pressure drugs, said Rejnmark, an associate professor at Aarhus University in Denmark.

“In my view, a 9-percent reduced mortality in the general population of elderly is of major importance,” Rejnmark told Reuters Health by email.

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