Roundup: Calcium, Vitamin D Supplements May Not Lower Risk of Fractures in Seniors, Study Finds

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December 29, 2017


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Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements may not lower the risk of bone fractures for elder adults living independently, as previously thought, according to a new review of past studies published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers analyzed data on 51,145 participants from 33 clinical trials. They found no significant difference in the risk of hip fractures for those who used calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, or both, compared to those who took a placebo or no supplements at all. The participants were all over 50 years old and did not live in a nursing home. None were on anti-osteoporosis medications.

Researchers reached their conclusion — even after accounting for participants’ gender, any history of bone fractures, the amount of calcium they consumed in their diets and the dose of the calcium pills they took (if they did).

The study’s authors emphasis that it’s possible calcium and vitamin D supplements can help people who live in nursing homes or other residential facilities. Such individuals are more likely to have osteoporosis, due to a combination of poor diet, less sun exposure (which the body needs to synthesize vitamin D) and other factors.

Established medical advice for seniors has focused on getting enough calcium and vitamin D to preserve bone health as they age. Most of the calcium in the human body is stored in the bones and teeth, and the body cannot produce the mineral on its own, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis. The body also requires vitamin D to absorb calcium.

The study has drawn some criticism that its findings may discourage individuals who need calcium or Vitamin D supplements for certain underlying conditions or deficiencies. Always consult with your physician before taking supplements, or before stopping any prescribed supplements.

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Diet Rich in Leafy Greens Can Prevent Memory Loss, Dementia

It’s not surprising when vegetables are found to be good for you in yet another study. But few have looked at the benefits of leafy greens in helping prevent memory loss and dementia — at least until now.

The verdict: Eating one to two servings of leafy greens per day is associated with a significantly reduced risk of cognitive decline, according to a new report published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The researchers looked at data from nearly 1,000 participants whose average age was 81 at the beginning of the study. None had dementia. They were about their diets, including how often they ate vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards and other greens, and lettuce. The participants were then divided up, based on how many greens they ate on average. A serving was considered to be a half-cup of cooked dark leafy greens, or a cup of salad greens (lettuce).

Researchers monitored the participants for up to 10 years, giving them tests to measure memory and cognition each year. Participants in the highest fifth, who ate about 1.3 servings of greens per day had a statistically significant reduction in the rate of developing cognitive, decline compared to those in the lowest fifth, who ate about 0.1 servings per day. Researchers calculated that the top group of leafy green consumers were about the equivalent of 11 years younger based on cognitive and memory sharpness.

“Adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health,” said Rush University study author Martha Clare Morris in a statement. “Projections show sharp increases in the percentage of people with dementia as the oldest age groups continue to grow in number, so effective strategies to prevent dementia are critical.”

Researchers do caution that the study was observational, and relied on people’s self-reports of their diets. While researchers did adjust for other variables, the study’s results still amount to a correlation, and cannot show a direct cause and effect.

However, the study is one of several that have found vegetables to contribute strongly to neurological and cognitive health. A diet based largely on plants, including greens and other non-green veggies, along with fruits, whole grains, fish, beans, and nuts is recommended by most dietitians and U.S. guidelines.

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U.S. Life Expectancy Drops for 2nd Year, a Rarity

Life expectancy for individuals in the United States dropped again following last year’s decline, which had been the first decline in more than two decades.

On average, Americans can now expect to live 78.6 years, a statistically significant drop of 0.1 year, according to a report on 2016 data published by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Women can now expect to live a full five years longer than men: 81.1 years for women compared to 76.1 years for men.

The last time the NCHS, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recorded a multiyear drop was in 1962 and 1963.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2016 remained the same as in 2015, although two causes exchanged ranks. Unintentional injuries, the fourth leading cause in 2015, became the third leading cause in 2016. Meanwhile, chronic lower respiratory diseases, the third leading cause in 2015, became the fourth leading cause in 2016.

Age-adjusted death rates decreased for seven of the top 10 leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease. The rates increased for unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and suicide.

“I still don’t think you can call it a trend, because you really need more than two data points to call something a trend,” Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center of Health Statistics, told CNN. “But it’s certainly concerning to see this two years in a row.”

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