The latest research suggests that combining Vitamin D and calcium with hormone replacement therapy after menopause decreases the risk of developing hip fractures. Dr. Michele Curtis, a women’s health researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center, expressed her thoughts on the study results:
“We always tell women to take calcium and vitamin D. At the end of the day what this study really says is, what you thought was a good thing to do really is a good thing to do.”
Researchers are well aware of the hazards of hormone replacement therapy, which is why it is suggested that if patients are consuming HRT for other reasons besides osteoporosis, it is always a good idea to add calcium as well.
Mixed thoughts on efficacy of Vitamin D and Calcium supplementation in post-menopausal women:
Despite the fact that a lot of women routinely consume calcium and vitamin D supplementation, there have been mixed thoughts regarding the role of supplementation in post-menopausal women and the required dosage that helps. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is backed by government funding, clearly documented in February that there is no benefit of consuming low dose vitamin D and calcium in elderly females.
In another study conducted by researchers at University of Buffalo, Jean Wactawski-Wende and her colleagues compared the data from Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study. All the study participants were above 50 years of age.
In arm 1 of the trial, study participants were prescribed hormone replacement therapy or placebo randomly. The other arm was assigned 400 IU of vitamin D and 1000 mg of calcium or placebo. Over 16,000 women participated in the trial that was continued for 7 years.
The results of the study indicated an extremely lower rate of fracture. A total of 214 women reported fractures during the course of the study that provided statistical evidence that participants who received both hormones and supplements are 50% less likely to develop fractures. Researchers identified that, during an average one year period, the total incidence of hip fracture in hormone and supplement group was 10 of 10,000, as opposed to 22 of 10,000 in a placebo group (who received neither hormonal therapy not supplements).
As opposed to the popular belief that hormone replacement therapy and supplements decrease the risk of bone fractures by strengthening bones, Wactawski-Wende and associates didn’t find this effect. The researchers reported no change in bone mineral density or osteoporosis.
“I think ultimately people have become aware that maybe it’s not the placebo for getting older that some may have perceived it was being marketed as, but that maybe there are benefits for it,” she told Reuters Health. Because of the risks, women shouldn’t take hormone therapy just to prevent fractures.”
Wactawski-Wende further added:
“The major indication for taking hormone therapy is for management of moderate to severe menopausal symptoms. However, those women who are on hormone therapy for vasomotor symptoms, who may also get the benefit of prevention of fractures, should consider supplementing with calcium at the same time to get the best benefit.”
Dr. Michele Curtis, who wasn’t involved in this new research, suggested that the negative effects portrayed by previous research studies that linked hormone therapy with medical and metabolic side effects like heart disease, breast cancer and stroke may have diverted the researchers too far away from the potential benefits of hormone replacement therapy. She suggested that doctors are now coming to the realization that HRT actually help some patients.