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Originally published April 28 2005

Junk science: negative study on calcium and vitamin D supplements was poorly constructed, yet widely reported

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

Based on a new research study published in The Lancet (April, 2005), newspaper headlines around the world are proclaiming that senior citizens should throw away their calcium supplements and turn to prescription drugs as their primary treatment for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Gee, what a convenient message for Big Pharma. It's not like we haven't heard this before: remember the recent effort to try to convince people that vitamin E would kill them?

Of course, thanks to direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, Big Pharma practically owns the mainstream media these days. Stories that discredit vitamins and recommend expensive prescription drugs are met with the big "thumbs up" from influential advertisers like drug companies. That must be why journalists around the world leaped on this story and started parroting distorted conclusion (throw away your calcium supplements!) without actually bothering to read the study.

In fact, in looking at ten different articles in the mainstream press, I didn't find a single article that actually mentioned the dosage of calcium of vitamin D that was given to patients. I only found two stories that mentioned the very low compliance rate of study participants. About half the people didn't even take their supplements! Didn't these journalists ever think that these details might matter?

But here's the really interesting part: when you look at this study closely, the whole thing falls apart. Here's why:

This indicates very low compliance with the study. And since 1/3 of the study participants self-reported failing to take the supplements, it is almost certain that more than 1/3 actually failed to take the supplements since people always tend to over-report their compliance. So we may have a study where 50% or more of the "participants" didn't actually participate. At that level of non-compliance, you can hardly call them study "participants."

If this study is supposed to look at the effects of calcium and vitamin D, then why wasn't the vitamin D level of participants measured before the study began? Was this study conducted in Northern states, or Southern states? Because geography has everything to do with sunlight, which in turn has everything to do with vitamin D levels in the general population. None of this was even mentioned in the study, meaning that we have no way to know whether vitamin D levels were actually improved by supplementation.

If you want to design a study that shows calcium supplements to be useless, strategy number one is to choose a segment of the population that has poor hydrochloric acid production. Namely, the elderly. Guess who was chosen for this study? The elderly, of course. And a good nutritionist would have told them to supplement with acidic substances or digestive enzymes in order to enhance the chemical breakdown of calcium in preparation for absorption in the small intestine. Yet this was never addressed in the study.

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book: if you want to "prove" that supplements are useless, just run a clinical trial using very low doses. In this particular case, calcium was supplemented at 1000mg, and vitamin D and 800 IU per day. While these doses aren't ridiculously low (like we've seen in some vitamin E studies), they are nowhere near the levels that would be used therapeutically. A good compounding pharmacist might recommend double that dose of calcium, at least for a time. And vitamin D for therapeutic use in those who are deficient is often prescribed at a dose of 50,000 IU for short durations, followed by a maintenance dose closer to 800 IU.

You have to remember that the logic of this study says that calcium and vitamin D supplements are useless because there was no difference in the number of fractures between the study group and the control group. But if you could find another way to reduce fractures in the control group, then you could effectively make the supplements in the study group appear useless. This was accomplished by giving the control group information on improving their diet and reducing the risk of bone fractures.

So it could very well be that both groups had a reduced risk of bone fractures, but since that reduction was the same in both groups, the study declares that supplements are useless. The key here is in recognizing that the control group wasn't really a control group. It was another variable group, where the method of intervention was education rather than supplements. If you teach a thousand senior citizens how to prevent falls, you're going to see a reduction in falls and fractures, regardless of bone mineral density. It could mean that education is a very good strategy -- just as good as supplements. They could be equally effective at preventing bone fractures.

Again, not one of the mainstream press stories that reported this bothered to examine the facts on this study. I haven't found a single journalist covering this study who actually looked at the structure of the study with any degree of skepticism. It just goes to show you: the mainstream press will print anything, no matter how ridiculous the conclusions, as long as it appears to come from a legitimate source and agrees with the financial interests of advertisers.

The bottom line? This study was poorly designed, poor followed, and ultimately comes up as junk science. Yet it's being touted by pharmaceutical-funded newspapers and media outlets around the world as an "A-ha!" moment, proving that calcium supplements and vitamin D supplements are useless. Faced with this information, what should consumers do now? Take more drugs, no doubt. Drugs which, by the way, are typically only "proven" through the construction of carefully distorted, selective studies that exaggerate their benefits and minimize their risks.

To think that calcium and vitamin D don't enhance bone health is, all by itself, rather astounding. Dozens of previous (and better designed) studies have looked at this issue and have shown a clear 30% - 40% reduction in bone fractures due to wise supplementation with calcium and vitamin D. But organized medicine wants you to think that somehow the body doesn't need nutrition. Instead, its promoters want you to believe that only prescription drugs can help you -- as if toxic, synthetic chemicals were somehow more important for human health than the natural bone-building substances provided by nature for which our bodies were actually designed.

You can add this study to the heap of advice designed to discredit nutritional supplements. Defenders of organized medicine and pharmaceuticals will stop at nothing to try to convince the entire population to throw away their supplements and buy more prescription drugs. And if that doesn't work, they'll just try to get the FDA to ban all the supplements as was recently tried in Europe via the CODEX Food Supplements Directive, which sought to outlaw thousands of nutritional products.

For anyone really interested in how to have healthy bones, here's how to do it. My own Bone Mineral Density score (BMD) is 2.51, which you can see on my health statistics page. This score is very high when it comes to Bone Mineral Density. I did it by avoiding all prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs and working only with naturopathic physicians, not MDs.

Here's what works:

  1. Get calcium from natural sources -- green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, spirulina, calcium supplements, and so on.
  2. Take your calcium supplements with acidic foods or supplements -- in order to assimilate the calcium in your digestive tract, you need to be able to break it down at a chemical level. Most younger people have no trouble with the production of hydrochloric acid for this purpose, but older people tend to have impaired acid production. This is especially pronounced in those over 60. So consuming acidic foods or supplements (black vinegar supplements, tomatoes or tomato sauce, pineapples, etc.) can help with digestion and assimilation of calcium and other minerals.
  3. Get natural sunlight on your skin to produce vitamin D -- the majority of Americans are vitamin D deficient, and without adequate sunshine on your skin, you'll probably never get enough (unless you supplement with cod liver oil or other natural vitamin D sources). Without adequate vitamin D, calcium cannot be absorbed in your small intestine.
  4. Engage in weight-bearing exercise -- by stressing your bones with weight-bearing exercise, your body will respond by creating stronger bones, with higher bone mineral density. (Be sure to work with a doctor, naturopath or physical therapist before engaging in any exercise program.)
  5. Stop believing every news story you read that says "vitamins don't work" and "you should take more drugs." These are pure disinformation, designed to boost the profits of Big Pharma at the expense of your health. Be a skeptical consumer.

Today, it's amazing what passes for "scientific" medicine. Under the guise of so-called science, medical researchers can come up with any conclusion they want. The vitamin E studies are a perfect example of this: they were carefully constructed with gerrymandered statistical curves to create the illusion that vitamin E is somehow bad for your health.

With the right motivation, researchers can design a study to say anything they want. They could create a study that "proves" water is bad for you... or sunlight... or air. Just because some new study has been announced in the mainstream press doesn't mean it's true. More often than not, it's just a way to appease their advertisers -- the drug companies.

As usual, it's all about selling you more high-priced drugs rather than giving you information that might actually help you stay healthy. If you want REAL health information, read Or check out the ebooks at That's where you'll get courageous, straight talk on how to be a healthy human being, without spending a dime on prescription drugs.


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