Don't Stop! Calcium intake is a life-time commitment
A decrease in bone density can cause osteoporosis and increase the risk of fractures in the elderly, making calcium supplementation essential. Post-menopausal women in particular lose bone density at about 1% per year. But according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), bone loss in the aged returns to its original level when calcium supplementation is stopped. A recent study shows that calcium intake should be a sustained life-time effort. Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University, Boston, presented her findings at the Experimental Biology 2000 conference.
Dawson-Hughes examined calcium intake and bone density in almost 300 men and women over the age of 65 for a two-year period. While all participants had taken calcium supplements for three years prior, a high percentage told researchers that they had stopped taking calcium. The study found that after one year of having stopped calcium supplementation, women continued losing bone density at pre-treatment rates. Men, on the other hand, took slightly longer to see the effect of calcium supplementation go away—after two years of not taking extra calcium, their levels of bone loss rose to pre-treatment levels. According to Dawson-Hughes, there appears to be “no sustained benefit from calcium” after supplementation is halted.
Adolescents have shown similar patterns. Calcium is especially important for adolescents, who are building bone density to peak. Dr. Steven Abrams, a pediatric researcher at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, in Houston, Texas, looked at findings from four trials in girls and boys aged 6 to 14 years. The trials lasted one to two years each. Again, when supplementation ceased increases in bone density slowed to levels seen in untreated children.
Dawson-Hughes believes that “meeting calcium requirements should be a lifetime commitment.” Calcium supplements make the task easier. Other sources of calcium include dairy products and produce such as collards, turnip greens, rhubarb, broccoli, kale and other green-colored vegetables.