The American Journal of Epidemiology is usually at the top of my list for amusing absurdities but I think I am going to have to add "Archives of Internal Medicine" to my list of guffaw-provoking reading. One of their latest articles is a real lulu. I will reproduce below first the Abstract and then a media summary. See if you can spot the absurdity:
Calcium Plus Vitamin D Supplementation and the Risk of Postmenopausal Weight Gain
By: Bette Caan et al
Background: Obesity in the United States has increased significantly during the past several decades. The role of calcium in the maintenance of a healthy body weight remains controversial.
Methods: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial was performed with 36 282 postmenopausal women, aged 50 to 79 years, who were already enrolled in the dietary modification and/or hormone therapy arms of the Women's Health Initiative clinical trial. Women were randomized at their first or second annual visit to receive a dose of 1000 mg of elemental calcium plus 400 IU of cholecalciferol (vitamin D) or placebo daily. Change in body weight was ascertained annually for an average of 7 years.
Results: Women receiving calcium plus cholecalciferol supplements vs women receiving placebo had a minimal but consistent favorable difference in weight change (mean difference, -0.13 kg; 95% confidence interval, -0.21 to -0.05; P = .001). After 3 years of follow-up, women with daily calcium intakes less than 1200 mg at baseline who were randomized to supplements were 11% less likely to experience small weight gains (1-3 kg) and 11% less likely to gain more moderate amounts of weight (>3 kg) (P for interaction for baseline calcium intake = .008).
Conclusion: Calcium plus cholecalciferol supplementation has a small effect on the prevention of weight gain, which was observed primarily in women who reported inadequate calcium intakes.
A Media summary below:
CALCIUM and vitamin D supplements could help postmenopausal women to control their weight, according to research in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine . The study included 36,282 women aged 50 to 79 who were randomly assigned to receive either 1000 milligrams of calcium plus 400 international units of vitamin D each day, or an inactive placebo. Participants were weighed each year for approximately seven years. At the end of the study, women who took the supplements weighed an average of 130 grams less than those who did not. The benefits were greatest in women who were not previously getting their recommended daily intake of calcium, with those in the supplement group weighing an average of 190 grams less than those in the placebo group by the end of the study. The authors suggest that calcium and vitamin D may help to break down existing fat cells and prevent the development of new fat.
Dja geddit? Popping all those pills over all those years helped the ladies lose all of one quarter of one pound! Wotta laugh!
A more honest conclusion to the study would have been something like: "Calcium and vitamin D supplements were found to be unimportant to weight control in this study".
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