Higher calcium intake may reduce the risk of digestive system cancers in both men and women according to a study of men and women over 50 from the National Institute of Health. The study also found a reduction in total cancer risk with increasing calcium intake in women, but not men. The analysis showed no effect of calcium intake on the risk of breast cancer or prostate cancer, however.
The highest calcium intake, and lowest cancer risk, in this study was consistent with current recommendations of 1,200 mg/d for adults over 50. Calcium supplements were taken by 14% of the men and 41% of the women in this study.
Calcium is also well known as an essential nutrient in the battle against osteoporosis, which is known as the “silent disease”. It is a silent disease in that it progresses insidiously and painlessly up until the first symptom, which is usually a broken bone. Unfortunately by then, most of the damage has been done. Both men and women over age 50 are at risk of osteoporosis. One-half of all women and one-fourth of all men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their remaining lifetime.
To prevent osteoporosis, the current guidelines for adults over 50 are to consume 1,200 mg/d of calcium in the form of food or calcium supplements. Adults under age 50 need 1,000 mg daily, and teenagers need the most, 1300 mg/d.
Calcium in foods, especially from milk and milk products, has been found to be better absorbed than from supplements. Milk products include hard cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, green vegetables and spinach. A simple way to estimate one’s daily intake of dietary calcium is to multiply the number of dairy servings consumed each day by 300 mg. One serving equals 8 oz of milk or yogurt, 1 oz of hard cheese, 16 oz of cottage cheese, or 2 cups of broccoli.
Despite all efforts to eat a calcium-rich diet, if dietary intake of calcium remains below the recommended value, calcium supplementation is recommended.
Source: Park Y, et al “Dairy food, calcium, and risk of cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study” Arch Intern Med 2009; 169: 391-401.
Source: MedPage Today, February 23, 2009
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