Calcium may not always the answer when it comes to bone health

As we get older, many of us take calcium in the belief that it helps our bones. In fact, the very word “calcium” has become synonymous with bone health. However, new research shows boosting our diets with extra calcium it may not be quite the cure-all we have been led to believe.

Two studies published in The British Medical Journal have called into question whether increasing calcium intake can help improve bone health or prevent fractures as we age. The researchers actually went so far as to say it was “unlikely to”.

SCIMEX reports the team of researchers was led by a Dr Bolland, who said the results suggest that clinicians, advocacy organisations and health policymakers should not recommend increasing calcium intake for fracture prevention, either by use of calcium supplement or dietary sources.

“For most patients who are concerned about their bone health, they do not need to worry about their calcium intake,” Dr Bolland said.

The studies’ findings contradict guidelines advising older men and women to take at least 1000-1200 mg/day of calcium to improve bone density and prevent fractures.

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The first study found that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources or by taking supplements produces small (one to two percent) increases in bone mineral density, which were unlikely to lead to a clinically meaningful reduction in risk of fracture.

The second found dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures.

A Swedish professor said the study showed  it was time to revisit recommendations to increase calcium intake beyond a normal balanced diet.

Professor Karl Michaëlsson from Uppsala University in Sweden said it appeared most people would not benefit from increasing their intakes but would  be exposed instead to a higher risk of adverse events such as gastrointestinal side-effects.

“The weight of evidence against such mass medication of older people is now compelling, and it is surely time to reconsider these controversial recommendations,” he says.

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Older Australians taking calcium are advised to see their doctor or dietician before making any drastic changes to their diets.

 

If extra calcium doesn’t help your bone health, are there any other supplements or foods you take or eat regularly that you think do boost your bone or general health?