Updated 13 October 2014

Calcium cuts stress fracture risk

Daily supplements of calcium and vitamin D, long linked to improving bone health, may also reduce the risk of stress fractures during exercise, scientists have reported.

Daily supplements of calcium and vitamin D, long linked to improving bone health, may also reduce the risk of stress fractures during exercise, scientists have reported.

The results, presented yesterday at the 53rd annual Orthopaedic Research Society meeting in San Diego, were obtained from a randomised, double-blind study with 5 201 female US Navy recruits during eight weeks of basic training.

“What really surprised us is that calcium/vitamin D supplements made a significant difference in such a short period of time. Frankly, we were not sure we would see any statistically significant results in only eight weeks,” said lead researcher Joan Lappe from Creighton University in Omaha.

The combination of vitamin D and calcium has long been recommended to reduce the risk of bone fracture for older people, particularly those at risk of or suffering from osteoporosis.

The action of the nutrients is complementary, with calcium supporting bone formation and repair, while vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.

How the study was done
The new study, funded by the US Department of Defense, appears to suggest that daily supplements of the vitamin and mineral may also provide benefits for those engaged in athletic training.

Stress factures are said to be one of the most common and debilitating overuse injuries seen in US military recruits with 21 percent of female recruits reported to suffer from this form of injury. Male recruits suffer less. The research of Professor Lappe, presented to attendees in San Diego, divided the recruits into two groups – one group received a daily supplement of 2 000mg of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D, and the other group received a placebo.

At the end of the eight weeks of basic training, 170 women in the placebo group experienced stress fractures; 25 percent more women than in the calcium/vitamin D supplemented group. has not seen the full data.

“It appears that supplementation with calcium and vitamin D provides a health-promoting, easy and inexpensive intervention that does not interfere with training goals,” said Lappe.

More research needed
Further studies are needed to confirm these findings, but the results appear to fit with numerous other studies linking the nutrients to improved bone health.

The current EU recommended daily intake of calcium is 800mg, with an upper safe limit of 2500mg. Vitamin D has a RDI of 400 IU, although campaigners are calling for an increase to 1000 IU, half the upper safe limit recommended by the EU and US.

In the US, the DRI (dietary reference intake) for calcium is 1000mg for adults aged 19 to 50, and 1200mg from 51 to 70. For vitamin D it is five micrograms per day, rising to 10 after the age of 50. - (Decision News Media, February 2007)

Read more:
Stress fracture of the lower leg


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Healthy Bones

Tereza is the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked as a Nursing Sister in the field of Osteoporosis for 18 years prior to her appointment with the Foundation. She used to be the Educational Officer for the Foundation and co-wrote the patient brochure on Osteoporosis. Read more

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