Extra calcium no help for osteoporosis, fracture risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Calcium and osteoporosis
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Increasing intake of dietary calcium fails to show benefit for reducing risk of fractures in older women.

The benefit of calcium for preventing osteoporosis that causes loss of bone mineral density has been the subject of much debate. A large cohort study shows more than 750mg of calcium intake a day had no benefit for lowering the chance of fractures.

The study is an attempt to clarify how much calcium, women especially, should take to maintain bone health with aging. There are no clear guidelines about how much calcium is needed to prevent osteoporosis. Recommendations vary. In the U.S. the daily amount suggested is 1200mg per day.

Some studies suggest calcium supplements taken by women to prevent fractures after menopause could lead to harm from increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

More than 750mg of calcium failed to lower fracture risk

The study followed 61,433 for 19 years who were the large Swedish Mammography Study. The women were born between 1914 and 1948. Another subgroup of 5,022 participants were included in a smaller investigation.

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The researchers used questionnaires to gather information about the women’s diet, menopausal status, use of supplements and multivitamins. Weight, height, smoking status, estrogen use, education and physical activity were also taken into account.

In the subgroup, 20 percent of the women developed osteoporosis. In the larger study, 14,738 women had a first fracture, with 3,871 experiencing a hip fracture.

In the study, women taking 750 mg of calcium had the lowest risk of fracture. Increased intake had no effect on lowering the chances.

The study concluded there is no need for women to start increasing calcium intake as they get older. Less than 750 mg a day seems to increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, but higher intake showed no advantage for preventing the condition.

BMJ 2011; 342:d1473
“Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study”
Eva Warensjö et al

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

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