A team of Auckland scientists who reduced the risk of heart attacks in elderly people have been awarded the half million dollar Prime Minister's Science Prize.
Distinguished professor Ian Reid along with associate professors Mark Bolland and Andrew Grey from Auckland University took out the top gong, along with $500,000 in prize money after their research revealed how ineffective calcium and vitamin D supplements are in treating osteoporosis.
In addition, it also proved calcium supplements increase the risk of elderly people having heart attacks by as much as 30 percent.
Due to their research, calcium and vitamin D are no longer routinely recommended to prevent osteoporosis and has saved billions of dollars internationally in prescription costs.
"We're now looking at why calcium supplements cause heart attacks and doing more research aiming to develop drugs to prevent osteoporosis," professor Reid said.
"We are looking for cost effective medical interventions to preserve the bones."
Auckland University had another winner at the awards, with Dr Alex Taylor winning the emerging scientist award for his studies of how humans think differently from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Invercargill's James Hargest College teacher Tania Lineham won the science teacher prize, Georgia Lala, 18, took out the Future Scientist Prize and Doctor Ian Griffin was awarded the Science Media Communication Prize.