Calcium's anti-fracture effect varies with age

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HONOLULU, Sep 22 (Reuters) In women, calcium supplements offer the greatest protection against forearm fractures early in menopause, whereas they offer the best protection against broken hips later in life, new research suggests.

The findings were presented here this week at the 29th annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research by principal researcher Dr Risto J Honkanen of the University of Finland in Kuopio.

Known as the OSTPRE study, the group consisted of 9,403 women born between 1932 and 1941 and followed by researchers since 1989.

From 1989 through 1994, a total of 777 fractures associated with the age-related, bone-thinning disease osteoporosis were recorded. These fractures included 279 that involved the forearm and 6 that involved the hip. Of the 835 fractures recorded between 1999 and 2004, there were 322 forearm fractures and 28 hip fractures.

The researchers used the amount of dairy product in the diet as a measure of calcium intake. The average calcium intake between 1989 and 1994 was 827 milligrams per day and remained essentially the same through 1999 at 848 milligrams per day.

''Calcium intake did not predict fractures in general in 1989-94 or in 1999-2004,'' the investigators reported. However, they found that higher calcium levels protected against forearm fractures between1989 and 1994, but not between 1999 and 2004.

There was an exception among women who had taken hormone replacement therapy at the start of menopause. Honkanen said ''a joint effect of high calcium intake and hormone replacement therapy on the (rate of) forearm fracture was seen even in late postmenopausal women in 1999-2004.'' On the other hand, calcium intake strongly protected against hip fractures during the 1999-to-2004 study period.

The bottom line, Honkanen said, is to maintain a high calcium intake throughout life.

REUTERS SKB VC0920

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