Calcium supplements can preserve and even build bones in the large share of the population that steadfastly consumes diets deficient in the mineral. Yet two new federal analyses indicate that the gains can quickly disappear when people stop taking extra calcium.
Building strong bones in childhood and maintaining them through adulthood offer the best protection against osteoporosis and debilitating fractures in old age, explains endocrinologist Bess Dawson-Hughes of the Agriculture Department's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.
Data from children and the elderly, however, show a consistent and disconcerting picture, she noted this week in San Diego at the Experimental Biology 2000 meeting, where she chaired a symposium on calcium supplementation.
Even in people over age 50, who typically are losing bone, only some 60 percent of men—and less than half of women—consume the recommende