Researchers say late-life increases in calcium may not reduce osteoporosis-related fracture risk

Consuming calcium is an important way to prevent osteoporosis, but new research has suggested that after years of poor diet, a late-life move to supplementation of the mineral may not reduce the risk of fractures or bone loss.

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, was based on the bone health of more than 61,000 Swedish women, as monitored by scientists at Uppsala University.

Researchers measured the participants' levels of calcium intake and bone loss in 1987 and again in 2006. Everyone included in the investigation was between the ages of 39 and 73 at the time of the first checkup.

The team found that over the 19-year interval, 24 percent of women experienced their first bone fracture, including 6 percent who suffered a broken hip. Among 5,000 women chosen to be in a more intensely examined subgroup, one-fifth were found to have developed osteoporosis.

After examining the calcium intake of these participants, the group found that those who had consumed 750 milligrams of the mineral each day had the lowest likelihood of experiencing a fracture.

Likewise, participants in the lowest quintile of calcium consumption had the highest rate of fractures, particularly those who also consumed too little vitamin D.

However, researchers discovered that women who started with a low calcium intake and gradually increased their levels of the mineral did not see a reduction in their risk of osteoporosis-related broken bones.

Scientists concluded that the most effective way to prevent fractures and progressive bone loss is to steadily consume adequate amounts of calcium before one's bone health degenerates, rather than increasing supplementation only after bone density has begun to dip.

The team qualified their assertion by noting that calcium and vitamin D supplementation is important at any age, especially for women, who comprise 80 percent of the 10 million Americans thought by the National Osteoporosis Foundation to have severe bone loss.

Scientists added that while a few studies have suggested that late-life increases in calcium intake may boost the risk of fracture, such findings must be taken with a grain of salt. Overall, the benefits of taking plenty of calcium are hard to overstate, they said.
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