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Most people should ditch the vitamin D and calcium supplements, study finds

Vitamin D and calcium supplements are often recommended for older Australians, especially women, to curb the risk of osteoporosis, but a new medical review suggests they offer little benefit.

A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia has found the supplements don’t help most people, and may even have adverse health effects.

Study co-author, Professor Ian Reid from the University of Auckland, said it’s rare that people need to take vitamin D and calcium supplements.

“There is no need for healthy, independently living older people to take vitamin D,” he told 3AW’s Ross and John.

“If you’re going out of your way to be on a calcium-free diet then, yes, you can make yourself calcium deficient, but it’s actually pretty uncommon.”

Mr Reid said taking supplements can even cause harm.

“Calcium tablets seem to cause you to be constipated, calcium supplements increase your risk of kidney stones and may increase your risk of heart attacks,” he said.

But, for frail elderly people in private hospitals or nursing homes, who rarely go outside, vitamin D supplements may be appropriate.

For everyone else, the advice is to get out in the sun.

In summer, early morning and late afternoon sun is recommended, while in winter, Mr Reid advises heading outside in the middle of the day.

“Australia is a very sunny place so people who obey sensible sun protection rules will still get tonnes of vitamin D just from the incidental sunshine exposure they get going through their normal daily lives,” he said.

Anyone who is currently taking nutritional supplements is advised to see their doctor for medical advice before ceasing supplementation.

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Image: Hoxton/Sam Edwards

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