In the study at The Ohio State University Medical Center, which is the first clinical trial to track calcium's effects on bone density in girls age 8-13 for as long as seven years, researchers found that calcium supplementation significantly increased bone mass development during a critical childhood growth spurt.
The findings suggest that elevated calcium use by pre-adolescent girls is likely to help prevent fractures and osteoporosis much later in life, said Velimir Matkovic, lead author of the study and director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center and the Bone and Mineral Metabolism Laboratory at OSU Medical Center.
The research is published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of Nutrition.
"Because most bone mass is accumulated during this phase of growth, pre-adolescence may represent the time of highest need for calcium in a female's lifetime," said Matkovic, also a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and nutrition.
Matkovic pioneered research on the concept of calcium's relationship to peak bone mass in the 1970s, when he documented differing fracture rates among populations that consumed contrasting levels of dairy products over their lifetime. His initial study, based in Croatia, is cited in "Bone Health and Osteoporosis," a report of the U.S. Surgeon General associated with the federal declaration that 2002-2011 is the Decade of the Bone and Joint.
"The importance of preventing osteoporosis can't be overstated," Matkovic said. "Prevention of this disease will not only improve the population's quality of life, but will also undoubtedly save on the skyrocketing health care costs associated with treatment."