Women Need More Calcium, Say Experts
Even women with osteoporosis fail to get the bone-building benefits of calcium
WebMD News Archive
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.
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
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
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