Disheartening news for women under 40 who have experienced onset of menopause: according to a recent study by the North American Menopause Society, the idea that calcium and vitamin D supplements can fend off their heightened risk of fracture has been debunked.
The study, which evaluated data on nearly 22,000 women under 40 with menopausal symptoms, had significantly higher risks for fracture when compared with menopausal women in their 40s and 50s – even when those women take the aforementioned supplements.
How the menopause affects joint pain
Joint pain may not be seen as one of the main symptoms of the menopause – it usually gets elbowed out of the way by the earlier symptoms such as irregular periods and hot flushes. But by the time a woman’s oestrogen level starts to drop to a sufficient level, the problems begin to start for your joints, as it’s commonly believed that oestrogen plays a key role in minimising swelling around them.
The other role oestrogen plays in joint maintenance is to regulate fluid levels in the body – including reducing the build-up of uric acid, which can cause inflammation of the joints. When the levels of oestrogen subside, the levels of uric acid increase.
How calcium and Vitamin D can help
Most importantly, a decrease in oestrogen leads to an increase in bone loss. In most cases, we reach peak bone mass between 25 and 30, but the earlier the drop in oestrogen production occurs, the sooner the bone structure is put under the risk of deterioration – and one thing that can but the brakes on that deterioration is an adequate calcium intake.
Vitamin D has long been seen as a cure-all for a range of mid-life symptoms. A fat-soluble vitamin that aids in the absorption of phosphorus and calcium from the intestine and helps to build and maintain bone mass, it also plays a key role in the reduction of inflammation. The jury is still out as to how much Vitamin D a body needs, but it’s generally agreed that there is a correlation between a great many mid-life ailments and a low level of Vitamin D.
There are plenty of foods that are rich in natural calcium and Vitamin D – dairy products and oily fish are the two that are most highly touted in both instances. Access to sunlight on a regular basis is also a key source of Vitamin D.
So what can we draw from the recent conclusions? Well, when it comes to fractures and osteoarthritis, it appears that calcium and Vitamin D supplements may not be the miracle cure for potential fractures that we once thought it was – but, as statics bear out, 80% of hip fracture patients have a vitamin D deficiency.
And in any case, there are still plenty of reasons to keep taking them – such as fighting off seasonal depression, boosting your attempts to lose weight, maintaining the health of bones and teeth, supporting the immune system and regulating insulin levels.