Original Article

Osteoporosis International

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 155-161

First online:

A high dietary calcium intake is needed for a positive effect on bone density in Swedish postmenopausal women

  • K. MichaëlssonAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopaedics, University Hospital
  • , R. BergströmAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics, Uppsala University
  • , L. HolmbergAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University Hospital
  • , H. MallminAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopaedics, University Hospital
  • , A. WolkAffiliated withDepartment of Cancer Epidemiology, University Hospital
  • , S. LjunghallAffiliated withDepartment of Internal Medicine, University Hospital

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The importance of dietary calcium for bone health is unclear, partly since most investigations have dealt only with a fairly narrow range of calcium intake. In the present population-based observational study with longitudinal dietary assessment, we investigated women with a mean age of 60 years and with a consistently high (range 1417–2417, mean 1645 mg,n=40), intermediate (800–1200, mean 1006 mg,n=35) or low (400–550, mean 465 mg,n=40) estimated daily consumption of calcium. Measurements of bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine, femoral neck and total body were performed by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, as well as ultrasound of the heel. In a multivariate analysis, with adjustment for energy intake the risk factors for osteoporosis (age, body mass index, physical activity, menopausal age, use of estrogens, smoking and former athletic activity), the group with the highest calcium intake had higher values for BMD than the others at all measured sites. The average mean difference compared with the low and the intermediate calcium group was 11% for the femoral neck, 8–11% for the lumbar spine and 5–6% for total body BMDs. In univariate analyses and multivariate models which did not include energy intake, the differences between the groups were less pronounced. The women in the intermediate calcium group had approximately the same mean BMD values as those in the low calcium group. These findings support the view that only a high calcium intake (3% highest percentiles in the studied population) protects against osteoporosis in Swedish postmenopausal women.


Bone mineral density Calcium Osteoporosis Ultrasound