Calcium: Not Just for Strong Bones Anymore

From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 28, 2000 (Cleveland) -- An adequate daily intake of calcium can affect more than bone health, according to a recent article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The authors of this extensive review pulled together much of the medical literature available on calcium, and found that there is a growing body of evidence that calcium can protect people against more than osteoporosis in old age. Specifically, calcium may serve to prevent colon and rectal cancers, high blood pressure, and even premenstrual syndrome (PMS), lead author Michael L. Power, PhD, tells WebMD. Proper calcium intake, he says, is just a piece of the proper nutrition puzzle that can contribute to increased longevity and good health.

"The idea is really to increase healthy eating all the way across the board. That is complicated, but in terms of calcium nutrition, the important thing is to increase calcium intake, which probably would in the long-term, say, 30 years from now, result in a decline in quite a few of the chronic diseases that occur," Power tells WebMD.


Current recommendations call for a daily intake of 1,200-1,500 mg. But the researchers are quick to add that bone health depends on much more than getting enough dietary calcium. "I like to think of bone health as a three-legged stool: one leg being nutrition, another being lifestyle (mainly exercise), and the third leg being hormonal adequacy. ... The point of the three-legged stool metaphor is that you have to have all three legs or you cannot sit on the stool. For optimal bone health, you really need to work on all three legs," says co-author Robert H. Heaney, MD, who is a professor at Creighton University, in Omaha, Neb.

"The point is to focus the woman's attention on her bone health and the importance of getting adequate exercise, adequate hormones, and adequate nutrition," says Heaney.

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