Vitamin D and calcium supplements do not improve menopausal symptoms, according to a major study on women’s health.
Women who took vitamin D and calcium supplements had the same number of menopausal symptoms as women who did not take the supplements, found the researchers.
The study, published in the journal Maturitas, involved 34,157 women ages 50-79.
It is part of the Women’s Health Initiative, one of the largest trials ever undertaken to address the most common causes of death, disability and impaired quality of life in menopausal women.
“Our study suggests that women should not rely on vitamin D and calcium supplements to relieve menopausal symptoms”
Researchers followed the women for an average of 5.7 years, from the mid-1990s to 2005, and asked them about more than 20 menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, emotional well-being, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
All women in the study were menopausal, which is defined as not having had a period for over a year. While symptoms tend to be most acute in the early 50’s, they can last for more than a decade.
Study participants were enrolled via 40 clinical trial sites throughout the US where they had yearly office visits and filled out extensive health questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study.
Half of the women took daily calcium/vitamin D supplements and the other half received placebo pills.
Over the course of the study, women in the intervention experienced an average of 6.26 menopausal symptoms, compared to an average of 6.32 symptoms for women who received the placebo pills.
There were also no differences on overall measures of emotional well-being, fatigue and sleep disturbances between the two groups.
Erin LeBlanc, lead author and investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, said: “Our study suggests that women should not rely on vitamin D and calcium supplements to relieve menopausal symptoms, but there are important caveats.
“The average age of the women at the start of our study was 64, but the average age of menopause is 51, and it’s around that time that the most severe symptoms usually occur,” she said.
“If we want to understand vitamin D’s effects on the most severe symptoms of menopause, we need to do a study in younger women,” she added.