BALTIMORE, MARYLAND. Osteoporosis and bone fractures in the elderly are a serious and growing problem. It is estimated that over one million fractures occur every year in the United States. The number of hip fractures alone is expected to triple between 1990 and 2040. There is considerable evidence that calcium and vitamin D deficiencies accelerate osteoporosis. There is also growing concern that older people frequently lack vitamin-D because human skin as it ages becomes less efficient in synthesizing the vitamin by sunlight exposure. Many older people also develop lactose intolerance which prevents them from absorbing calcium (and vitamin D) from dairy products. A recent placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving 389 men and women over 65 years of age evaluated the effect of supplementation with calcium and vitamin D. Half the group took 500 mg of calcium citrate maleate and 700 IU (17.5 micrograms) of vitamin D daily at bedtime while the other half took placebos. At the end of the three-year study period participants who had taken calcium and vitamin D supplements had increased their bone mineral density significantly and also reported far fewer fractures. The study concludes that "Optimal intakes of both calcium and vitamin D are relatively cost-effective, safe, and easily implemented approaches to maintain existing bone mass and assist in the prevention of fractures."
O'Brien, Kimberly O. Combined calcium and vitamin D supplementation reduces bone loss and fracture incidence in older men and women. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 56, May 1998, pp. 148-58