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Review questions need for vitamin D supplements

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By Reuters
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 5:51 p.m.

NEW YORK — People older than 50 often take vitamin D supplements thinking they're making their bones stronger and preventing osteoporosis.

But a review of past studies finds the supplements don't usually increase bone density. Researchers said they aren't necessary for most healthy adults.

Among people with osteoporosis, bones become weak and fragile because of the loss of bone density that often comes with aging. Fragile bones are more likely to break. A common prevention strategy is to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. But it's not commonly found in foods, unless they're fortified, like most milk. The body makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight.

Although calcium is necessary for strong bones, there has been some concern about the safety of taking calcium supplements.

“Recent evidence has indicated that calcium, with or without vitamin D, probably increases the risk of heart attacks,” Dr. Ian Reid said in an email.

“Therefore, there is a renewed interest in the value of using vitamin D alone for optimizing bone health,” Reid added. He is a professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the lead author of the study. Reid and his colleagues collected 23 past studies on vitamin D and bone density and re-analyzed their findings.

The studies included a total of 4,082 participants. The participants were in their late 50s, on average, and 92 percent of them were women.

The researchers found vitamin D supplements at any dose didn't make much of a difference for bone density.

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