Doctors slam calcium and Vitamin D conflict of interest

Doctors slam calcium and Vitamin D conflict of interest

22 July, 2015 Amanda Davey 2 comments

Two New Zealand doctors have lambasted academics, advocacy organisations and companies that recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent or treat osteoporosis despite evidence that they don’t work.

They write in the BMJ that a focus on profit and vested interests over evidence-based research is fuelling this misguided advice.

Drs Andrew Grey and Mark Bolland from the University of Auckland argue that some prominent academics and specialist societies have undeclared commercial and academic conflicts of interest in the nutrition osteoporosis field.

Industry and its lobby groups are funding and influencing the activities and policies of osteoporosis advocacy organisations such as the European based International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), they say.

In their paper, the researchers cite numerous examples of a “complex web” of interactions between industry, advocacy organisations and academia.

“After evidence accrued that calcium and vitamin D do not safely reduce fracture risk1, the nutrition industry continued to partner osteoporosis advocacy organisations to promote their widespread use,” they write.

“For example, in 2010 DSM, ‘the world’s largest manufacturer of vitamin D3’, partnered the IOF to produce a global vitamin D map, the launch of which was accompanied by claims that vitamin D deficiency is present throughout Europe and calls for more supplementation of older adults.

“Fonterra became the IOF Asia Pacific Regional Nutrition Partner in 2010 and has aligned with, and financially supported, osteoporosis advocacy groups throughout Asia.”

In 2014 the IOF partnered with food group Danone to promote the bone benefits of dairy products, and the US National Osteoporosis Foundation aligned with a leading drug company to promote its calcium supplement for skeletal health of older women.

Dr Grey says “disentangling industry from academia might improve the translation of evidence into practice”.

Furthermore, vitamin and food manufacturers should declare payments to doctors in the same way that drug companies do.

Advocacy organisations and specialist societies “should eschew corporate sponsorship, and academics should not engage with advocacy organisations until it is clear that such commercial ties have been severed”, he says.

  1.  BMJ study excerpt

“By the end of 2010, 14 large randomised trials of calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, or their combination had been published: three reported reduction in fracture risk, nine no effect, and two increased fracture risk,Among 24 small randomised trials, 21 found no effect. Meta-analyses of these trials, when analysed by intention to treat, report either no effect on fracture risk or marginal risk reduction of doubtful clinical importance. A trial sequential analysis reported last year that sufficient evidence is available to conclude that vitamin D with or without calcium does not reduce total fracture risk by >10% and that additional trials are unlikely to alter that finding.\


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About Dr Colin Holloway

Gp interested in natural hormone treatment for men and women of all ages

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