Calcium tablets may build bone density

December 07, 1993|By Dr. Sandra Kammerman | Dr. Sandra Kammerman,Contributing Writer

Using supplements to increase calcium intake during pre-teen years may build higher bone density and prevent osteoporosis later in life.

Osteoporosis is a disorder -- affecting mostly older women -- that makes bones susceptible to fractures from little or no stress. Areas such as the wrists, hips and spine are especially vulnerable.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mass and density -- the overall amount of bone and its amount per unit volume -- are progressively reduced. This is generally associated with a decrease in the amount of calcium stored in the bone.

Calcium is vital to maintain the teeth and bone mass. A consistent level of calcium is needed in the blood to preserve the proper function of the body's muscle, nerve and immune systems. Bone mass is one of the major predictors of bone fractures; the higher the amount, the less chance of fractures.

Bone mass builds during teen-age and adolescent years when calcium is deposited into the bones. But it begins to decline after the age of 30.

Increasing the amount of bone tissue built up before the age of 20 is believed to minimize the effects of osteoporosis and bone fractures due to thinning bones later in life.

But the best methods of going about this are unclear. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association sought to determine if bone density and mineral content of pre-puberty females could be increased with the use of calcium supplements.

The recommended daily allowance for calcium, as suggested by the U.S. government, is 1,200 milligrams per day for people between the ages of 10 and 24 years.

For those over 24 years, the new recommended daily allowance is 1,500 milligrams of calcium daily. More is needed for elderly people, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.

In the study, one group of females received calcium tablets that raised their total calcium intake including dietary calcium to 110 percent of the recommended daily allowance. The control group received about 80 percent, from dietary sources alone.

The results indicated those who received greater amounts of calcium had greater bone density and bone mineral calcium in the spine and total body as measured by X-rays.

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