Calcium pills beat fractures, reducing risk by 72% in new clinical trial

June 12, 2008

Daily supplements of calcium may reduce the risk of fractures in a healthy population by 72 %, according to results of a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Emphasizing the importance of the supplements, researchers from University Hospital Zurich and Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire report that the benefits were no longer observed when supplementation was stopped. The use of calcium, usually in combination with vitamin D, has long been recommended to reduce the risk of bone fracture for older people, and the use of these supplements is widely accepted by the general public.
     The new study adds to this body of evidence, showing that among the 930 healthy participants in the study, fewer fractures were recorded in the group receiving a daily Calcium supplement than those receiving placebo. The researchers recruited healthy individuals with an average age of 61, and randomly assigned them to receive the Calcium supplement supplying 1,200 mg of elemental calcium daily or placebo for four years. After the supplementation period had ended the participants were followed for a further 10.8 years. The scientists calculated that Calcium supplements reduced the risk of fracture by 72 %, but no difference between the groups was observed during the follow-up period when no supplements were consumed. "Calcium supplementation reduced the risk of all fractures and of minimal trauma fractures among healthy individuals," concluded the researchers. "The benefit appeared to dissipate after treatment was stopped. The study is published in the June 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Calcium and magnesium reduce chemo side effects reducing the risk of nerve damage and pain without interfering with oxaliplatin
A presentation on May 15, 2008 at the 44th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology revealed that the minerals Calcium and Magnesium administered intravenously to patients undergoing chemotherapy results in a significant reduction in toxicity to nerve tissue, a common side effect of chemotherapeutic drugs that often leads to neuropathy. The condition is characterized by pain in the extremities that can be severe enough to prevent cancer patients from continuing their treatment.

     The researchers with the North Central Cancer Treatment Group administered intravenous Calcium and Magnesium before and after treatment with the chemotherapeutic drug oxaliplatin to 50 of 102 patients with advanced colon cancer. The remaining 52 patients received oxaliplatin with an intravenous placebo. The research team found a significant reduction in neurotoxicity incidence (the number of patients who develop nerve damage), severity, and time to onset associated with the use of Calcium and Magnesium compared with the placebo group.

     “We designed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that confirmed the effectiveness of Calcium plus Magnesium in reducing debilitating neurological sensitivity associated with oxaliplatin, such as pain in the hands, fingers, feet and toes,” explained study co-chair Daniel Nikcevich, MD, PhD, who is an oncologist at St. Mary’s Duluth Clinic in Minnesota. “In the past, these side effects have caused patients to stop treatment and, therefore, not receive critical therapy.”

     “Some initial reports from other studies claimed that the use of Calcium and Magnesium reduced the activity of oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy,” added co-chair Axel Grothey, MD of the Mayo Clinic. “However, we have definitive results from an independent, blinded radiologic review which demonstrates no negative influence of Calcium and Magnesium on the outcome for oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy.”

     “Now that we have shown the effectiveness of Calcium and Magnesium in reducing oxaliplatin-induced neurotoxicity, a further step may be to evaluate the benefit of Calcium and Magnesium in reducing neurotoxicity caused by other medications,” Dr Nikcevich stated. “Many other commonly used chemotherapy agents cause neurological sensitivity. By applying our study design, we can test the effectiveness of calcium and magnesium when used with other treatments.”