Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Osteoporosis Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Women Need More Calcium, Say Experts

Even women with osteoporosis fail to get the bone-building benefits of calcium
By Linda Little
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Medical News

Sept. 26, 2005 (Nashville) -- Despite a major push by health authorities, most American women still aren't getting enough bone-building calcium even when they are being treated for osteoporosis.

"Calcium is important," says Robert P. Heaney, MD, of the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. "You want to tell American women to go to the chalkboard and write 1,000 times, 'I will take my calcium.'"

Heaney reported his findings at the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research 27 Annual meeting here.

Falling Short

Osteoporosis affects 9 million women, primarily postmenopausal women, making the bones weak and more likely to fracture. An additional 34 million women are estimated to have bone loss that puts them at risk for osteoporosis. Adequate daily calcium is essential in maintaining bone strength.

Creighton researchers looked at more than 11,000 women and evaluated how much calcium they got.

The results revealed that 85% of postmenopausal women only got on average 727 milligrams of calcium per day, a full 500 milligrams below the recommended intake of 1,200 milligrams a day for women aged 50 years and older.

"The study showed that daily calcium intake has not improved since the landmark Study of Osteoporotic Fractures nearly 20 years ago," says Heaney. "We wanted to see if health care was improving in this area. The answer is we are failing."

Osteoporosis Drugs Aren't Enough

To make matters worse, the team also found that even many American women prescribed medication for osteoporosis still weren't getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Calcium helps build stronger bones, and vitamin D helps the body better use calcium.

Of the more than 1,100 women taking medications for osteoporosis, only about one-third took the calcium supplementation necessary to achieve the full benefit of the medicine, the researchers reported.

One hundred percent of the women taking bisphosphonate need to be taking adequate levels of calcium, Heaney tells WebMD. "All the new osteoporosis drugs build bone - some more than others - but none without adequate calcium."

Humans Are Bad

When women are asked if taking calcium is important, they will answer that it's important, he says. "But they aren't internalizing the information and taking action."

This study has hit the mark, Robert Lindsay of the National Osteoporosis Foundation tells WebMD. "The human race isn't very good about taking medicine. Americans aren't getting enough calcium from their diets and that is why physicians advise them to take calcium supplements."

It is especially important for women taking osteoporosis medication because without enough calcium, the medicine won't be as effective, says Lindsay.

"All the clinical trials showing the effectiveness of [osteoporosis drugs] were done in combination with women taking calcium supplements. However, in the real world, patients are taking the medication without the supplements."

Today on WebMD

thumbnail_man_feeding_woman_strawberry
Slideshow
Managing OAB
Article
 
Vitamin D
Slideshow
osteoporosis overview
Slideshow
 
Lactose Intolerance
Article
Woman holding plate of brocolli
Article
 
Dairy products
Tool
Superfood for Bones
Slideshow
 
Endocrinologists in Your Area
Screening Tests for Women
Slideshow
exercise endometrial cancer
Article
 
hand holding medicine
Article
Working Out With Osteoporosis
Video