As people age, their bones lose calcium and they are more at risk of fractures and osteoporosis -- this is especially the case for women. As well as causing individual suffering, fractures are a huge drain on health services.
With aging populations, this burden will increase in the coming years and therefore preventing them is a major public health issue, say the authors, led by Dr Eva Warensjö from Uppsala University in Sweden.
The importance of increasing calcium intake to compensate for the loss of calcium has been debated for a long time and there is still no clear advice. This is reflected by the wide range of daily calcium recommendations for the over fifties -- in the UK it is currently 700 mg; it is 800 mg in Scandinavia and 1,200 mg in the US.
In order to investigate the links between long-term dietary calcium intake and the risk of fractures, the authors reviewed data from a large population study of Swedish women carried out in 1987.
Over 61,433 women (born between 1914 and 1948) took part in the Swedish Mammography Study and of these 5,022 participated in a smaller sub-research group. All participants were followed up for 19 years.
During the follow-up, 14,738 (24%) women had a first fracture and, of these, 3,871 (6%) had a first hip fracture. Twenty percent of the sub-group had osteoporosis.
The researchers used a series of questionnaires to gain in-depth knowledge of the participants' changing diet and in particular their calcium intake and use of supplements and multivitamins...read more