New research clarifies roles of calcium, vitamin D, and protein in bone health, fracture risk

New research shows calcium in food might do more to protect bones than supplemental calcium in pill form, according to results presented at the IOF World Congress on Osteoporosis in Toronto, Canada. Bones lose calcium as they age, making them vulnerable to osteoporosis and fractures.

"We found that people who take just dietary calcium, or a combination of dietary calcium with supplements, have better bone density than those who take supplements alone," explained Dr. Reina Armamento-Villareal of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO (conference abstract P696). "So we think dietary sources are better than supplemental sources by themselves."

In separate presentations, researchers from the Netherlands report that vitamin D supplements reduce fracture risk only in the presence of additional calcium; a new study finds vitamin D deficiency is widespread among European women; and researchers from California add to a growing consensus that high protein foods also promote bone health.

IOF's Bone Appetit campaign, a global initiative focused on the role of nutrition and food in bone health, to be launched on World Osteoporosis Day 2006, 20 October, make these findings especially timely.

Dietary calcium more beneficial than calcium supplements

Clues to Armamento-Villareal's discovery were identified in women split into three groups: one that got calcium from supplements only; another that got it from food only; and a third that got calcium from both supplements and food. Dietary sources were associated with high levels of active estrogen metabolites in urine, which is important because estrogen builds bone mass during youth and prevents bone loss during aging. "And we believe that if urinary levels of estrogen metabolites are high then estrogen levels in the body are also high," Armamento-Villareal said.

According to Armamento-Villareal, dietary calcium appears to be optimally absorbed by the body. B

Contact: A Leopold
International Osteoporosis Foundation

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