Tips for Better Bone Building, Part 1: Calcium and Vitamin D

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Tips for Better Bone Building, Part 1 Calcium and Vitamin D – never alone, always together

The bedrock of every bone is an excellent supply of calcium and vitamin D. It’s only logical – the hard substance of a bone is mostly calcium and vitamin D is needed in order for the gut to absorb calcium and for the bones to know what to do with it. Vitamin D regulates the body’s calcium metabolism (and does much more). The importance of vitamin D for health is no longer a theory. It’s a scientific fact. Its importance for bone health in conjunction with calcium is also well-established.

The results of three “gold standard” randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials all have shown that dietary supplementation with calcium promotes healthy bone structure. In one of these studies, elderly postmenopausal women without previous fractures responded to 4 years of daily dietary supplementation with 1000 mg of calcium with enhanced bone density and structure when compared to similar women being fed a placebo.2 Similarly, a second study showed that elderly postmenopausal women who had previously suffered a spontaneous bone fracture, and had a lifetime of poor calcium nutrition prior to the study, responded to 4 years of daily dietary supplementation with 1200 mg of calcium with 77% fewer new spinal fractures than occurred in women fed a placebo for the 4 years.3 In the third randomized placebo-controlled study, women who previously had suffered multiple fractures and then supplemented their diets with 1500 mg to 2500 mg of calcium daily also enjoyed fewer new fractures than were endured by similar women fed a placebo.4

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized the relationship between good calcium nutrition and bone health by stating that “Adequate calcium throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.” These government scientists continue to consider the significant scientific evidence that indicates that maintaining adequate calcium intake (that is, the amount that they recommend be consumed on a regular daily basis) can reduce the chances of suffering a spontaneous, “osteoporotic” fracture of the hip, spine or wrist.

A possible side-benefit of maintaining adequate calcium nutrition: On October 12, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that although they found the scientific evidence inconsistent and not yet conclusive, they agreed that “Some scientific evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of hypertension.”

Another possible side-benefit of maintaining adequate calcium nutrition: On October 12, 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that although the supporting scientific evidence is sparse and not conclusive, “Some evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of colon/rectal cancer” and “Very limited and preliminary evidence suggests that calcium supplements may reduce the risk of colon/rectal polyps.”

But please do not think about calcium in isolation. The ability of calcium to benefit your bones (and cardiovascular system and digestive tract) depends on the cooperation of vitamin D. Unfortunately, even if you are making sure to get the recommended amount of vitamin D every single day, you still may not be getting enough vitamin D to optimally support your health.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Tips for Better Bone Building, Part 2: What is the “Real” Vitamin D Requirement?

References:
2. Reid IR, Ames RW, Evans MC, Gamble GD, Sharpe SJ. Long-term effects of calcium supplementation on bone loss and fractures in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Am J Med 1995;98:331-335.
3. Recker RR, Hinders S, Davies KM, Heaney RP, Stegman MR, Lappe JM, Kimmel DB. Correcting calcium nutritional deficiency prevents spine fractures in elderly women. J Bone Miner Res 996;11:1961- 1966.
4. Riggs BL, Seeman E, Hodgson SF, Taves DR, O’Fallon WM. Effect of the fluoride/calcium regimen on vertebral fracture occurrence in postmenopausal osteoporosis. Comparison with conventional therapy. N Engl J Med 1982;306:446-450.

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