Calcium and vitamin D can significantly impact bone mineral and fracture risk in women. Unfortunately, calcium intakes in women are low and many elderly have poor vitamin D status. Supplementation with calcium (~1000 mg) can reduce bone loss in premenopausal and late postmenopausal women, especially at sites that have a high cortical bone composition. Vitamin D supplementation slows bone loss and reduces fracture rates in late postmenopausal women. While an excess of nutrients such as sodium and protein potentially affect bone mineral through increased calcium excretion, phytoestrogens in soy foods may attenuate bone loss ihrough eslrogenlike activity. Weight-bearing physical activity may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women by augmenting bone mineral during the early aduli years and reducing the loss of bone following menopause. High-load activities, such as resistance training, appear to provide the best stimulus for enhancing bone mineral; however, repetitive activities, such as walking, may have a positive impact on bone mineral when performed at higher intensities. Irrespective of changes in bone mineral, physical activities that improve muscular strength, endurance, and balance may reduce fracture risk by reducing the risk of falling. The combined effect of physical activity and calcium supplementation on bone mineral needs further investigation.
The authors are with the Department of Foods and Nutrition, Dawson Hall, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.