June 03, 2015
2 min read

Vitamin D, calcium supplements fail to improve menopausal symptoms

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Low-dose vitamin D and calcium supplements had no effect on a variety of menopausal symptoms, including mood changes, muscle aches, hot flashes and fatigue, compared with placebo, according to research in Maturitas.

In a large, randomized, placebo-controlled calcium and vitamin D supplementation trial, researchers found that menopausal women who took the supplements had the same number of symptoms — including mood changes, night sweats, hot flashes and fatigue —as those who did not take supplements.

Erin S. LeBlanc, MD, MPH, of Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, and colleagues at other institutions analyzed data from 34,157 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 years (average baseline age, 63.7 years) participating in the Women’s Health Initiative.

Erin LeBlanc

Erin S. LeBlanc

Within the cohort, 17,101 participants were assigned 1,000 mg calcium carbonate plus 400 IU vitamin D daily, given as one tablet in two divided doses to be taken two times per day with meals, compared with 17,056 participants assigned an identical-looking placebo. Participants completed questionnaires at baseline and during follow-up regarding more than 20 menopause-related symptoms based on the Postmenopausal Estrogen/Progestin Interventions (PEPI) symptom tool, as well as a food frequency questionnaire, to determine dietary vitamin D and calcium intake. Researchers followed participants for an average of 5.7 years from the mid-1990s through 2005.

During follow-up, women assigned calcium and vitamin D supplementation experienced an average of 6.26 menopausal symptoms, whereas women assigned placebo experienced an average of 6.32 symptoms. Women assigned calcium and vitamin D did not report significantly different levels of sleep disturbance, emotional well-being or energy or fatigue levels during follow-up compared with women assigned placebo, according to researchers.

“Our study shows that, at this dose, vitamin D and calcium were not helpful for menopausal symptoms,” LeBlanc told Endocrine Today. “That doesn’t mean that if women are already taking the supplements that they should stop taking them, but they now have more information. There are varying guidelines about what is the optimal dose of vitamin D supplementation, and some professional bodies believe that most women get enough vitamin D from their diets and sunlight, so there is no right answer for every woman.”

Larger, better designed clinical trials with vitamin D — particularly with younger women — are needed to expand on the findings, LeBlanc said.

“I would like to see a well-designed trial in women who are just starting menopause where we give higher doses, to see if vitamin D has an effect on menopausal symptoms,” LeBlanc said. – by Regina Schaffer

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.