HealthDay News — Current evidence does not support the use of vitamin D and calcium supplements to protect older women against osteoporotic fractures or cancer, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced in draft recommendations issued Tuesday.

There is no value for postmenopausal women taking supplements up to 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium for preventing fractures, the task force concluded. There is not enough evidence to recommend low doses of these supplements to protect men or premenopausual women against fractures either. 

Furthermore, while lower doses do not appear to protect against fractures in older women, they may put some at a small increased risk for developing kidney stones.

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The group took no position on higher doses of these nutrients for fracture prevention, stating that current evidence is “insufficient to assess the balance of the benefits and harms.”

USPSTF also did not find enough evidence to support the role of vitamin D and calcium supplementation in warding off cancer.

With regard to low-dose supplements and fractures, “the science is still out for premenopausal women and men,” panel member Timothy J. Wilt, MD, MPH, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said in a statement. “Many people take the supplements, but the science was insufficient to make recommendations for everyone.”

Most of the evidence USPSTF took into consideration for the recommendation came from the Women’s Health Initiative study, which involved more than 36,000 postmenopausal women. Participants were randomly assigned to oral supplements of 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg of calcium, but researchers found no significant reduction in rates of hip fracture or total fracture compared with placebo.

Results from other, smaller trials failed to confirm a significant benefit for fracture-prevention with low-dose supplements. However, findings from a 2011 Institute of Medicine report suggest that women aged 51 to 70 years who took 600 IU of vitamin D and 1,200 mg of calcium daily had a clearer net benefit for fracture prevention, the task force noted.

Last month, USPSTF found that evidence supports the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of falls in community-dwelling older adults, who may be prone to falling.

The draft recommendations on low-dose supplements for fracture and cancer prevention are not yet finalized and should not be taken as an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality policy or determination. It is open for public comment until July 10.