Each May the National Osteoporosis Foundation celebrates Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. The theme for 2007 is "Osteoporosis. It's Beatable. It's Treatable," which addresses the important issues associated with osteoporosis for different audiences, and encourages people to take action to protect their bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
By about age 20, the average woman has acquired 98 percent of her skeletal mass. Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis later. There are five steps which together can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. They are:
¢ A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
¢ Weight-bearing and resistance-training exercises.
¢ A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake.
¢ Talking to one's health care professional about bone health.
¢ Bone density testing and medication when appropriate.
Here are some frequently asked questions that the National Osteoporosis Foundation has addressed:
Q: I know dairy foods have calcium, but what are good food sources?
A: Calcium is necessary for bones to stay strong, and every cell in the body needs calcium to work properly. Maintaining an adequate calcium intake is an important step toward good bone health throughout life. Luckily, there are many foods that contain calcium.
Most people know dairy foods contain calcium but are unaware that low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese actually have more calcium per serving than the regular versions. But did you know a cup of frozen broccoli has 94 milligrams of calcium? Or that 10 dried figs have 270 milligrams?
Dry roasted almonds pack 75 milligrams into each ounce. Many foods are made with added calcium.
Look for calcium-fortified orange juice, cereals, breads and other foods.
Q: How do I choose the calcium supplement that is right for me?
A: Many people consume all the calcium they need from their diet, but others rely on a combination of calcium-rich foods and calcium supplements or on supplements alone to meet their daily needs. There are many supplements from which to choose, allowing people to find the one that is easiest for them to use. Calcium supplements are available as pills, capsules, chewable tablets, chewable candies, powders and tablets that dissolve in water.
In nature, calcium is found only in combination with another substance, such as carbonate, citrate or gluconate. These combinations, or compounds, form calcium "salts" that vary in the amount of actual (elemental) calcium they contain. For example, calcium carbonate is 40 percent elemental calcium, and calcium citrate contains 20 percent elemental calcium.
If a tablet contains 1,250 milligrams of calcium carbonate, it contains 500 milligrams of elemental calcium (40 percent of 1,250 is 500).
Suggestions for choosing a supplement that is right for you:
Determine your daily calcium intake from foods.
¢ If calcium intake is around 1,200 milligrams a day, keep up the good work. If additional calcium is needed from a supplement, determine which supplement provides closest to the amount needed. (One that provides 200 milligrams, 400 milligrams or 500 milligrams per pill.)
¢ Decide the form of calcium that will be easiest for you to take.
You now know how much calcium you need and the form you would prefer. Choose a recognized brand name or check with the pharmacist in a local store.
¢ Calcium is easier to absorb when it is consumed in small doses throughout the day. Think about dividing your calcium intake between breakfast and dinner or bedtime. Most calcium supplements, with the exception of calcium citrates, are better absorbed if taken with food.
¢ Remember, calcium alone does not protect your bones. Vitamin D (400-800 IU/day) is necessary for calcium absorption, but the vitamin D does not have to be included with the calcium. Many people take a daily multivitamin that provides 400 IU of vitamin D. Other sources of vitamin D include fortified foods, fatty fish and skin production from sun exposure. Exercise also plays an important role in lifelong bone health.
Q: Advertisements for coral calcium supplements appear to be everywhere. The ads claim that this calcium not only helps bones but also cures many other medical conditions. Is coral calcium better than any other kind?
A: Coral calcium supplements are made from limestone, which is a form of calcium carbonate. Another common form of calcium is calcium citrate. While all calcium supplements preserve bone health, some individuals selling coral calcium have made health claims that go beyond the current research findings.
Because those coral calcium marketers were making health claims that were not supported by scientific research, they came under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. Two marketers were ordered to stop their infomercials touting unsupported health claims and to return money made as a result of those ads. In addition, the FTC warned several additional coral calcium marketers to remove misleading statements from their Web sites.
In another report, researchers presented results of a study on a variety of well-known calcium supplements. They looked at whether the calcium in the bottle measured up to the claims on the label, and their results were disappointing. In some instances, the amount of calcium in the supplement did not match the amount stated on the label. In other cases the supplements contained unacceptable levels of lead contamination, and some did not dissolve fully in the stomach.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that you read labels carefully and choose purified calcium carbonate or calcium citrate.
- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.