Question from: 7/7/97

Max C. Karrer, M.D.

Answer: Calcium supplements are essential for optimum bone density both in the teen age years and in the post menopausal years. Maximum bone loss occurs in the first 7 - 10 years after menopause. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are equal in their effect on bone density although calcium citrate may be more easily digested and absorbed. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and is particularly important in northern climates where there is not a much sunlight in the winter months. (studies in Sweden have shown increased bone loss during the these months) Vitamin D alone has no effect in preventing fractures, but in combination with calcium there is a definite effect on fracture rate.

However, estrogen replacement therapy greatly enhances the beneficial effect of calcium and Vit. D in preventing bone loss. Finally, magnesium can be of benefit in bone mass preservation in elderly individuals who have a magnesium deficiency, but has little effect in middle aged individuals on adequate diets. Naturally it makes sense to take a vitamin supplement that has Vit. D, Vit. C Vit. K, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc.

Editors Note: This additional information was provided by Lori Alexander, MSHS, R.D., L.D. (phone 828-5555).
  • A U.S. dept. of Agriculture survey found that 68% of the American population did not meet the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA's) for calcium
  • It is estimated that American women get only half the amount of calcium that is recommended, yet women lose 2-4% of their bone mass per year in the first few years of menopause and may lose 30% of their bone mass by the age of 70.
  • For men age 25 and up, the RDA for calcium is 800 mg.
  • Dietary fiber and Zinc, when consumed in large amounts, interferes with calcium bioavailability. So can certain green leafy vegetables such as, spinach, chard, and beet greens.
  • Nicotine promotes bone loss and alcohol can be a direct toxin to bone cells. Moderation of alcohol consumption is the key for maintaining strong bones.
  • A diet high in fat will decrease the bioavailability of calcium.

For more information see, Calcium Supplementation.

Charles H. Booras, MD



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