Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

National Academy of Sciences Introduces New Calcium Recommendations

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

National Academy of Sciences Introduces New Calcium Recommendations

Article excerpt


Osteoporosis is a serious, chronic condition of porous (easily fractured) bones. It develops silently and slowly over time and is directly related to decreased calcium storage in the bones. New calcium recommendations have been published by the National Academy of Sciences. The new guidelines recommend increased calcium intake to prevent bone deterioration. This article reviews these new guidelines, food sources of calcium, and common calcium supplements. Attaining the increased calcium recommendations is possible, but it does require balanced, healthful food choices.

Osteoporosis is a preventable disease of porous, easily fractured bones. It afflicts more than 28 million Americans-most of them women (Wilde, Economos, & Palombo, 1997). Women are most at risk because bone decreases rapidly after menopause. Prevalence of osteoporosis increases with age; however, prevention strategies can begin at any time in one's life. For adults, proper nutrition, balanced meals, and generous calcium intakes are reasonable preventive recommendations. Specifically, the role of calcium nutrition in bone health is well established (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 1994). High calcium intakes have been shown to reduce the loss of bone in postmenopausal women (Dawson-Hughes et al., 1991) and decrease fractures in persons who had fractures previously (Chapuy et al., 1992).


Scientists agree that bone strength later in life depends on how well the bones are developed during youth and that adequate calcium nutrition during the growing years is essential to achieving optimal peak bone mass (National Academy of Sciences [NAS], 1997; NIH, 1994). On the basis of this agreement, the National Academy of Sciences has released a new report that revises calcium requirements for Americans. For the first time since 1989, the federal government has increased its recommendations for calcium intake (NAS, 1997).

The Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academy of Sciences reviewed, adjusted, and increased the recommendations for calcium because of new research findings. The new recommendations are called Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), and they expand the scope and application of the former Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs; National Research Council [NRC], 1989; see also NAS, 1997). The new DRIs provide two sets of measures for each nutrient: Adequate Intakes (similar to RDAs) and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (maximum nutrient intake guidelines; NAS, 1997; "Higher Levels of Calcium," 1997). The concept of the DRIs extends the RDA goal of avoiding nutrient deficiency. DRIs quantify the relationship between a nutrient and the risk for disease (e.g., calcium intake and osteoporosis prevention). Thus, the new DRIs are designed to reflect the latest research about nutrient requirements based on optimizing health among all life-stage groups (NAS, 1997; "Higher Levels of Calcium," 1997).

Table 1 illustrates the new (1997) Adequate Intake (AI) calcium recommendations for each life-stage group. AIs are the observed or experimentally set intake by a defined population or subgroup that appears to sustain a defined nutritional status, such as growth rate, normal circulating nutrient values, or other functional indicators of health (NAS, 1997).

The new DRIs (AI) state that adults between the ages of 19 and 50 years should consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and all adults older than 50 years should consume 1,200 mg of calcium per day (NAS, 1997). Some authorities suggest even higher levels of calcium (1,500 mg/day) for postmenopausal women who are not receiving estrogen replacement therapy (Gums, 1996; NIH, 1994; Whitney & Rolfes, 1996). These recommendations are considerably higher than the former 1989 RDAs of 800 mg per day for most adults (NRC, 1989). The calcium recommendations were increased because adults lose bone mass as they age and are, therefore, at increased risk for osteoporosis. …

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