With Calcium, More May Not Be Better05/25/11
TUESDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Getting enough calcium for
bone health is essential, but getting more than that doesn't appear
to confer any additional benefit, Swedish researchers have
With age, bones start to lose calcium, their major building
block. This puts older people, especially women, at risk for
fractures and osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become
fragile and break easily.
To help prevent these devastating injuries, women with a low
intake of calcium should increase their intake to avoid fractures
caused by osteoporosis, "while women with a satisfactory intake
should not," said lead researcher Eva Warensjo, a researcher in the
department of surgical sciences section of orthopedics at Uppsala
"Dietary intake of less than 700 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day was associated with a higher risk of both fractures and osteoporosis, while higher intakes did not further reduce the risk in [a population-based] cohort of Swedish women," she added.
The researchers also found there was an increased risk of hip
fracture at the highest intake level. "But, this result should be
cautiously interpreted and needs to be investigated further,"
The report was published in the May 24 online edition of the
For the study, Warensjo and colleagues collected data on 61,433
women born between 1914 and 1948 who took part in the Swedish
Mammography Cohort study in 1987.
Women in the study responded to questions about their diet and
use of calcium supplements and multivitamins. In addition,
researchers used information they provided to adjust for weight,
height, smoking, educational status and the use of
estrogen-replacement therapy for menopause, among other
During 19 years of follow-up, 24 percent of the women had a
fracture for the first time. Of these, 6 percent were hip
fractures, the researchers noted. In addition, an analysis of 5,022
women in a study subgroup found 20 percent had developed
Warensjo's team found that women who consumed about 750 mg of
calcium a day had the lowest risk of fracture. However, women who
consumed more than 750 mg did not see their risk for fracture or
osteoporosis decline further. On the contrary, they appeared have a
higher risk of hip fracture, with a hazard ratio of 1.19, the
Hip fractures and other broken bones caused by osteoporosis
result in higher health costs and widespread individual suffering,
the authors noted.
The answer to the question of how much daily calcium is the
right amount for people over 50 is still under debate globally, and
recommendations vary from country to country. In the United States,
for example, health agencies recommend 1,200 mg a day for women 50
and older, while U.K. scientists recommend 700 mg. The
recommendation in Scandinavia is 800 mg and in Australia it's 1,300
mg, the researchers noted.
Another important caveat in interpreting the findings of the
study is that this is an observational study and conclusions about
cause-and-effect cannot be made, said Warensjo, who said that
further research was needed.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Robert R. Recker, president of the
National Osteoporosis Foundation, said the benefit of calcium
levels off at some point and 1,000 to 1,200 mg a day is not too
high because it takes into account daily variation in intake.
"This study does not shift that paradigm," Recker said. "I would not even consider changing my recommendation to patients based on this," he added.
Recker's approach is to ask patients about their diet and then
he recommends calcium supplements if the patient is not getting
enough calcium from diet alone. "I tell them between 1,000 and
1,200 mg per day is what's called for," he said.
Speaking of supplements, Recker noted that the body absorbs
calcium only under certain conditions. Supplements, for example,
need to be taken with food, he said.
More than 40 million people in the United States have or are at
high risk for osteoporosis due to low bone mass, according to
federal health agencies.
For more information on osteoporosis, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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