A new government study, however, has found that healthy postmenopausal women shouldn't bother taking them because they don't prevent broken bones and can increase the risk of kidney stones.
"What I don't want to see is for people to hear this recommendation and conclude that calcium and vitamin D supplementation is worthless," said Dr. Steven Rabin, a board-certified gynecologist based in Burbank.
The study by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force focused on low dose dietary supplements, about 400 IUs of vitamin D and 1000 milligrams of calcium. The study doesn't make it clear that those doses offer bone protection if taken by women before menopause or if taken by men. But Rabin said he believes they do.
"This study does not say that supplementation is inappropriate for people who are at risk, and that's almost everybody else," He said.
For women who are taking calcium and vitamin D, there's another little-known vitamin supplement they should take as well. It's called K2, and Rabin says it could be the missing link.
"It turns out that vitamin K2 is an important element in terms of helping the body direct where calcium should go, to the good places, to the bone and the teeth, rather than into the coronary vessels, the heart and soft tissues," said Rabin.
K2 also exists naturally in food. It's in dairy and fermented soy products. As for vitamin D and calcium, they're also found in food, including orange juice and dairy. Vitamin D can also be acquired in a healthy dose of sunshine.