Take Calcium While Dieting to Prevent Bone Loss
Postmenopausal women on weight-loss diets require more calcium, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2004;80:123–30).
The body maintains constant blood levels of calcium with a complex set of hormonal interactions that cause bone to be formed or lost. Healthy bones need the proper amount of calcium, and these requirements increase during pregnancy, lactation, and after menopause. Postmenopausal women are encouraged to consume 1,200 mg of calcium per day from food and supplements to prevent thinning of the bones.
During periods of weight loss bone mass may be lost, leading to an increased risk of bone fracture. The current study examined the effect of a weight-loss diet on calcium absorption in 57 overweight postmenopausal women. The women were assigned to either a weight-loss or a weight-maintenance group for six weeks. The weight-loss group received nutrition education and behavior modification training from a registered dietitian, and they lost weight through a combination of calorie restriction and regular physical exercise. The weight-maintenance group did not receive weight-loss training.
All participants took a daily multivitamin containing 200 mg of calcium and were assigned to receive either 200 mg or 1,000 mg of supplemental calcium (as calcium citrate) per day for six weeks. Dietary sources were intended to provide an additional 800 mg of calcium per day, so that the two groups received a total of 1,200 and 2,000 mg, respectively, of calcium per day. Daily calcium absorption was estimated, and other markers of calcium metabolism and bone turnover were assessed at the beginning and end of the study period.
Women in the weight-loss groups absorbed less calcium than women in the weight maintenance groups, especially when weight loss was rapid. Women in the weight-loss group who received a total of 1,200 mg of calcium per day absorbed almost 20% less calcium than the daily requirement. Women in the weight-loss group receiving a total of 2,000 mg of calcium per day absorbed sufficient amounts of calcium to prevent bone loss.
The results of this study suggest that postmenopausal women who are dieting should take supplemental calcium above the current recommended daily value to prevent bone loss. To add more calcium to the diet, rich sources include kale, collards, broccoli, sardines, almonds, soybeans, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dairy products.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
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