Understanding the Long-term Effects of Calcium and Vitamin D on Health in Postmenopausal Women
Health LibraryLatest Research in Women's Health
Understanding the Long-term Effects of Calcium and Vitamin D on Health in Postmenopausal Women

Navigating the health landscape for postmenopausal women can often feel like a daunting task, especially when it comes to supplements. A recent study sheds light on the long-term effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation, revealing some intriguing outcomes that may impact your approach to dietary supplements.

What Was Studied?

The study focused on postmenopausal women, a group often concerned with issues like bone health and chronic disease prevention. Researchers explored how daily supplementation of calcium and vitamin D influenced health outcomes over many years. Specifically, they examined the impact on cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, along with the incidence of fractures and other health markers.

Key Findings

  • Cancer Mortality: The study found a 7% reduction in cancer mortality for those taking the supplements. This suggests that calcium and vitamin D might have a protective effect against certain types of cancer in postmenopausal women.
  • Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: Surprisingly, the same group saw a 6% increase in CVD mortality. This highlights a complex relationship between these supplements and heart health, suggesting that benefits in one area might come with risks in another.
  • Supplement History: The effects varied significantly depending on whether participants had taken supplements prior to the study. For instance, those who hadn’t supplemented before saw a lower risk of colorectal and breast cancer compared to those who had.


  • Supplement Quality and Dosage: The study used specific dosages of calcium and vitamin D. It’s crucial to consider the quality and amount of the supplements when interpreting these results.
  • Personal Health Profiles: The varied responses based on previous supplement use underscore the importance of personalized health strategies. What works for one might not work for another, emphasizing the need for tailored health advice.
  • Study Limitations: The researchers noted some limitations, including potential biases due to pre-existing supplement use and unadjusted factors that could affect the outcomes.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you’re a postmenopausal woman considering calcium and vitamin D supplements, these findings suggest a nuanced approach. While there might be potential cancer-fighting benefits, there are also cardiovascular risks to consider. It’s essential to discuss these factors with your healthcare provider, considering your personal health history and current health needs.

The Bottom Line

This study highlights the importance of ongoing research into the effects of supplements over the long term. As we age, the balance of our nutritional needs can shift, and what might be beneficial at one stage could pose risks in another. Staying informed and consulting with health professionals will ensure that your health strategy adapts to these changing needs, helping you to maintain your well-being through postmenopausal years and beyond.

  • Thomson CA, Aragaki AK, Prentice RL, Stefanick ML, Manson JE, Wactawski-Wende J, Watts NB, Van Horn L, Shikany JM, Rohan TE, Lane DS, Wild RA, Robles-Morales R, Shadyab AH, Saquib N, Cauley J. Long-Term Effect of Randomization to Calcium and Vitamin D Supplementation on Health in Older Women : Postintervention Follow-up of a Randomized Clinical Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2024 Apr;177(4):428-438. doi: 10.7326/M23-2598. Epub 2024 Mar 12. PMID: 38467003.
  • Zhao JG, Zeng XT, Wang J, Liu L. Association Between Calcium or Vitamin D Supplementation and Fracture Incidence in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017 Dec 26;318(24):2466-2482. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.19344. PMID: 29279934; PMCID: PMC5820727.
  • Cauley JA, Chlebowski RT, Wactawski-Wende J, Robbins JA, Rodabough RJ, Chen Z, Johnson KC, O'Sullivan MJ, Jackson RD, Manson JE. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and health outcomes five years after active intervention ended: the Women's Health Initiative. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2013 Nov;22(11):915-29. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2013.4270. Epub 2013 Oct 16. PMID: 24131320; PMCID: PMC3882746.
  • Prentice RL, Pettinger MB, Jackson RD, Wactawski-Wende J, Lacroix AZ, Anderson GL, Chlebowski RT, Manson JE, Van Horn L, Vitolins MZ, Datta M, LeBlanc ES, Cauley JA, Rossouw JE. Health risks and benefits from calcium and vitamin D supplementation: Women's Health Initiative clinical trial and cohort study. Osteoporos Int. 2013 Feb;24(2):567-80. doi: 10.1007/s00198-012-2224-2. Epub 2012 Dec 4. PMID: 23208074; PMCID: PMC3557387.
  • Bolland MJ, Grey A, Gamble GD, Reid IR. Calcium and vitamin D supplements and health outcomes: a reanalysis of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) limited-access data set. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;94(4):1144-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.015032. Epub 2011 Aug 31. PMID: 21880848; PMCID: PMC3173029.
1.What Was Studied?
2.Key Findings
4.What Does This Mean for You?
5.The Bottom Line