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Study Shows Limited Benefits From Calcium


3 Star

Study Shows Limited Benefits From Calcium

Our Review Summary

This piece reports on the outcomes from the Women’s Health Initiative about the effectiveness of calcium and vitamin D to prevent hip fracture. Although the results showed that the level of calcium and vitamin D supplementation did not significantly reduce hip fracture, they did find that this level of supplementation did increase the risk of kidney stones. There were several interesting points raised in the study that were not reported on in this story. This first is that the methods used to encourage supplement use was only adequate to get a subset of the women studied to take the supplements. The results also point out the discrepancy between the common measure of ‘bone health’ (bone density) and the outcome of importance (fracture rate). Lastly, the study also showed that women who fell were significantly more likely to have a hip fracture than those who never fell. This raises the question of whether an intervention to reduce the likelyhood of falls would be useful for reducing risk of hip fracture. The overall tone of the article is suggestive that women beyond menopause should still take these supplements, though this is not consistent with the results of the study.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No cost of calcium and vitamin D supplements was provided.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Did not present estimate of absolute risk or benefit.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Article failed to mention that calcium and vitamin D supplementation increased the risk of kidney stones. Although the experts quoted were clear that the trial was not a ringing endorsement for the use of these supplements to reduce fracture rate, they also cast the use of these supplements in a light more positive than the current study suggested.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


Though mention was made that these results come from the Women’s Health Initiative and that it was a comparison of women taking supplements to women taking dummy pills, the story never mentioned that this was a randomized clinical trial.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

Benefits of calcium and vitamin D supplement were presented as percent reduction in hip fracture rates without the context of how often they occur. The reduction in hip fracture rate reported in the study was 12% (as compared to 29% for those who took the supplements regularly). However the article presented the 21% reduced rate for women over 60 but the story never reported the overall 12% rate.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No mention made of other approaches to bone loss such as engaging in weight bearing exercise, or prescription medications to enhance bone building or inhibit bone resorption.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


This article reports on a study to test the common use of calcium by women to ensure bone health.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Given the multiple sources cited, it does not appear this story was based solely on a news release

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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