Calcium intake and fracture risk: Results from the study of osteoporotic fractures

Robert G. Cumming, Steven R. Cummings, Michael C. Nevitt, Jean Scott, Kristine E. Ensrud, Thomas M. Vogt, Kathleen Fox

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120 Scopus citations


The relation between dietary calcium, calcium, and vitamin D supplements and the risk of fractures of the hip (n = 332), ankle (n = 210), proximal humerus (n = 241), wrist (n = 467), and vertebrae (n = 389) was investigated in a cohort study involving 9,704 US white women aged 65 years or older. Baseline assessments took place in 1986-1988 in four US metropolitan areas. Dietary calcium intake was assessed at baseline with a validated food frequency questionnaire. Data on new nonvertebral fractures were collected every 4 months during a mean of 6.6 years of follow-up; identification of new vertebral fractures was based on comparison of baseline and follow-up radiographs of the spine done a mean of 3.7 years apart. Results were adjusted for numerous potential confounders, including weight, physical activity, estrogen use, protein intake, and history of falls, osteoporosis, and fractures. There were no important associations between dietary calcium intake and the risk of any of the fractures studied. Current use of calcium supplements was associated with increased risk of hip (relative risk = 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.1-2.0) and vertebral (relative risk = 1.4, 95% confidence interval 1.1-1.9) fractures; current use of Tums antacid tablets was associated with increased risk of fractures of the proximal humerus (relative risk = 1.7, 95% confidence interval 1.3-2.4). There was no evidence of a protective effect of vitamin D supplements. Although a true adverse effect of calcium supplements on fracture risk cannot be ruled out, it is more likely that our findings are due to inadequately controlled confounding by indications for use of supplements. In conclusion, this study did not find a substantial beneficial effect of calcium on fracture risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)926-934
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by grants (1-RO1-AG05407, 1-RO1-AR35582, 5-RO1-AG05394, 1-RO1-AM35584, and 1-RO1-AR35583) from the Public Health Service.


  • calcium
  • fractures
  • hip fractures
  • osteoporosis


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