Unexpected Results of New Calcium Study Raise Questions

Washington, D.C., March 1, 2018In response to a new study, “Calcium and vitamin D supplementation and increased risk of serrated polyps: results from a randomised clinical trial,” published online today in the British Medical Journal Gut, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry, issued the following statement:

Statement by Andrea Wong, Ph.D., vice president, scientific & regulatory affairs, CRN:

“CRN is surprised by the results of this new study as previous research has indicated calcium supplementation may have a protective effect against colorectal polyps.1,2,3,4 Even the study’s authors acknowledge they do not understand the mechanism by which the calcium supplements seemingly had the opposite effect of what was hypothesized. Given these opposing outcomes in the research to date, this is clearly a case where additional research is needed to discern whether this study’s outcome was an anomaly.

Until further research is conducted, we caution the medical community and consumers against haphazardly dismissing or downplaying the value of calcium supplementation, particularly in people most likely to develop osteoporosis or bone loss. This particular study focused on a very specific population—patients with a history of colorectal polyps—and therefore, the study’s results are not applicable to the general population. We recommend consumers with a history of colorectal polyps talk with their doctors about whether calcium supplementation is appropriate." (See calcium facts below.)

Calcium Facts:

  • CALCIUM IS ESSENTIAL AT EVERY LIFE STAGE: During childhood and adolescence, a proper intake of calcium plus vitamin D helps build optimum bone mass. Throughout adulthood, calcium will slow the rate of bone loss that naturally occurs with aging. Because of the natural loss of calcium that occurs as we age, getting enough of this essential nutrient is especially important for the older populations, who are at risk for falls and fractures.
  • CALCIUM IS GOOD FOR BONES—AND BEYOND: Substantial research has demonstrated supplementing with calcium and vitamin D to be effective in maintaining or increasing bone density, preventing osteoporosis, and potentially in protecting health in other ways as well. Calcium also helps blood clot, nerves send messages, muscles contract, and other body functions.
  • AMERICANS ARE FALLING SHORT IN CALCIUM: The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified calcium as a “nutrient of public health concern” because getting insufficient amounts of calcium has been linked in the scientific literature to adverse health outcomes.
  • CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS ADDRESS SHORTFALLS: Our bodies cannot produce calcium on their own, and when we don’t get enough, calcium is taken from our bones. Individuals who do not achieve adequate intake levels of calcium through their diets can rest assured that supplemental calcium is safe and effective for ensuring optimal bone health.
  • CALCIUM IS ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: 26 percent of supplement users take dietary supplements, according to the 2017 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.

1Baron JA, Barry EL, Mott LA, et al. A trial of calcium and vitamin D for the prevention of colorectal adenomas. N Engl J Med 2015;373:1519–30.

2Bonithon-Kopp C, Kronborg O, Giacosa A, et al. Calcium and fibre supplementation in prevention of colorectal adenoma recurrence: a randomised intervention trial. European cancer prevention organisation study group. Lancet 2000;356:1300–6.

3Baron JA, Beach M, Mandel JS, et al. Calcium supplements for the prevention of colorectal adenomas. Calcium polyp prevention study group. N Engl J Med 1999;340:101–7.

4Pence BC. Role of calcium in colon cancer prevention: experimental and clinical studies. Mutat Res 1993;290:87–95.

Note to Editor: The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 150+ dietary supplement and functional food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements and food in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as to CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit www.crnusa.org. Follow us on Twitter @CRN_Supplements and LinkedIn.