Author: Myron Yau, Nutritionist at HKBioTek
A new research suggests older adults who take vitamin D and calcium supplements may live a bit longer than their peers. It is found that older adults who were given vitamin D and calcium supplements were 9 percent less likely to die in three years than those given placebo pills. Vitamin D on its own, however, showed no effect on death rates.
Those types of studies offer the strongest kind of evidence on whether the supplements have health effects or not. The researcher points out, a 9 percent reduced mortality in the general population of elderly is of major importance since except stopping smoking, there are not many other known interventions that are capable to give such a notable reduction in the risk of death.
Vitamin D and calcium are probably best known as bone-builders. Older women often take the supplements to ward off the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Some trials have also found that the supplement combination can prevent falls and bone fractures in the elderly.
Click and ViewThe possibility is that supplements curbed people’s risk of dying from cancer. There’s some evidence that calcium and vitamin D may lower the odds of colon cancer, though the evidence is not yet “firm”.
In the U.S., the Institute of Medicine says people should get no more than 100 micrograms, or 4,000 IU, of vitamin D each day. The upper limit for calcium in older adults is 2,000 milligrams. People can, of course, get calcium and vitamin D through food too. Dairy foods are rich in calcium; other sources include greens like broccoli and kale, and fortified juices and breakfast cereals. Food sources of vitamin D are relatively few, but include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, plus fortified milk, juice and cereals.
As for known side effects, calcium supplements may boost a person’s risk of kidney stones. And very high levels of vitamin D can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, constipation and poor appetite.