Calcium for Osteoporosis, PMS, Cancer Prevention

Calcium Deficiency

Many women start taking calcium supplements during menopause, but calcium deficiency increasingly is being seen in younger women, says the June 2003 issue of the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

Women who aren't getting enough calcium in their diets should take a supplement, regardless of their age. If dietary intake of calcium is insufficient, calcium supplements can provide special benefit to the bones at certain times in life, such as puberty or in early menopause. But at any age, calcium benefits a woman's bones as well as muscles and nerves.

A Purdue University study suggests women taking oral contraceptives can counteract bone loss by making sure they get enough calcium in their daily diet.

Earlier research indicated optimizing bone mass in adolescence and young adulthood prevents low bone density and osteoporosis later in life. On the other hand, researchers noted oral contraceptives appear to decrease bone density.

"It's estimated eight out of 10 women in the United States use oral contraceptives at some time during the years in which peak bone mass is developing," said Dorothy Teegarden, assistant professor in Purdue's Department of Foods and Nutrition. "The results of our study suggest the loss for this group can be prevented by increasing calcium intake."

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended dietary allowance of calcium for women age 19 to 50 is 1,000 milligrams a day. The recommended daily allowance of calcium for adolescents age 9 to 18 is 1,300 milligrams daily.

The mineral component of the bone matrix is intimately related to the levels of the minerals in the circulating blood. The regulation of mineral levels is such that if a person experiences a serum calcium deficiency, the bones surrender calcium to maintain the amounts needed in the blood for other body functions.

Conversely, increased amounts of phosphorus from sources such as Coke and Pepsi beverages, fast foods, and preservatives can contribute to a calcium deficiency by lowering the available blood calcium (Avioli, 1993).

In osteoporosis, the bones begin to deteriorate due to calcium deficiency as result of the body�s efficiency in maintaining mineral balance in the blood. Unfortunately it is done at the expense of bone integrity. Increasing calcium intake can help prevent this �theft� of calcium from bone before the onset of osteoporosis.

Bone Loss

Bone loss is experienced when calcium levels begin to decrease. The decrease creates a weakened matrix and a higher risk for fractures. Since these effects may remain undetected and painless in the early stages, osteoporosis is known as the silent thief. While many causes for osteoporosis have been identified, treatment of early stage osteoporosis often focuses on calcium supplements.

Calcium and Weight

The first large study to look at total calcium consumption in adolescents found that girls who consumed more calcium weighed less and had lower body fat. The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2003 meeting in San Diego, as part of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences program.

Calcium and PMS

Calcium supplements reduce PMS symptoms by almost half, according to a study by Dr. Thys-Jacobs, M.D., of Columbia University. The randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study was conducted on 441 women, ages 18 to 45, at 12 health centers nationwide.

The women took either calcium supplements or a placebo daily for three months. They used a PMS diary to measure 17 symptoms on a four-point scale. Symptoms included mood swings, irritability, water retention, food cravings, headache and cramping. Each of the women had confirmed PMS.

At the end of the study, researchers compared the diaries. Each woman's individual symptom scores were averaged to give her a general score for each menstrual cycle. Women taking the calcium supplement experienced an overall 48 percent reduction in symptom severity during the third cycle, while those taking the placebo had a 30 percent reduction. Most notable was the reduction in pain, the supplemented group reporting a 54 percent reduction, compared with a 15 percent reduction in the placebo group.

This study corroborates additional recent evidence that abnormal calcium regulation may be responsible for many symptoms of PMS. Symptoms of PMS may be caused by abnormal parathyroid hormone secretion, which can be corrected with calcium supplementation. This in turn regulates the abnormal serotonin and monoamine levels linked to PMS.
-American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 1998 Ag; 179: 444-52.

Calcium and Cancer

In a study appearing March 20, 2002 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers at Harvard evaluated the diet and colon cancer history of 135,000 men and women in two large health surveys. They found that those who consumed 700 to 800 milligrams of calcium daily significantly reduced their risk of left-side colon cancer by 40 to 50 percent.

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