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Osteoporosis Prevention with Calcium Supplementation Starts in Childhood

A study published in the January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplementing with calcium increased the bone mass of prepubescent girls. It not only improved their current health status but helped protect against the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease that occurs in many older women which is characterized by a reduction in bone density.

In the first long term clinical trial to evaluate the effect of calcium supplements on bone density in girls ages 8 to 13, researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center divided 354 girls to receive supplementation with 670 milligrams calcium per day or a placebo for four years. Participants had the option of remaining in the trial for an additional 3 years. The girls’ diets provided an average of 830 milligrams calcium per day. Bone mineral density of the wrist, elbow, hand and total body were determined upon enrollment, and at 4 and 7 years.

It was discovered that calcium supplementation had the most significant impact on bone density during the prepubescent growth spurt, and that its effects decreased after the onset of menstruation. Bone mineral density in all areas measured was significantly greater after 4 years in the calcium supplemented group than in those who received the placebo, but the effect was found to have diminished at the 7 year point.

Lead author and director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center at Ohio State University, Dr. Velimir Matkovic, commented: “Because most bone mass is accumulated during this phase of growth, preadolescence may represent the time of highest need for calcium in a female’s lifetime . . . The importance of preventing osteoporosis can’t be overstated. 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.”


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan 2005; 81, 1:175-188, 2005

Key concepts: calcium, osteoporosis, childhood