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Read: an article on the research in Agricultural Research.

Bone Gains Fade When Elders Cease Supplements

By Judy McBride
January 24, 2001

Do seniors maintain strong bones after they stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements? Researchers asked this question after showing that men and women over 65 who took extra calcium and vitamin D daily for three years either gained or retained bone throughout the body and specifically in the spine and hip--two areas prone to fracture in elders.

The results showed that the gains from taking the supplements didn’t last. Two years after the volunteers stopped taking the required 500 milligrams of calcium and 700 International Units of vitamin D daily, they had lost any supplement-related benefits to the spine and hip.

Both the original and follow-up studies were conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. The center is funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific agency.

Fewer than one in 10 U.S. elders meet the current recommendations for calcium and vitamin D. These are set at a total daily intake of 1,200 milligrams of calcium from food and supplements and 400 to 600 I.U. of vitamin D.

Of the 389 volunteers in the original study, 295 remained in the two-year follow-up, returning to the center once a year for bone measurements and other tests. They no longer took calcium and vitamin D provided by the study--although they were allowed to take their own supplements, according to researcher Beth Dawson-Hughes.

An article on the research appears in the January issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Scientific contact: Bess Dawson-Hughes, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., phone (617) 556-3064, fax (617) 556-3305,