Study: More Benefit from Food-Based Calcium Than Supplements

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Today I ran across a story about results from a study at the Washington University School of Medicine that I found very interesting. The study found that women who get most of their calcium from food have healthier bones and higher bone density than those who get most of their calcium from supplements – even though the women who got most of their calcium from supplements had higher calcium intake.

From the story:

The “diet group” took in the least calcium, an average of 830 milligrams per day. Yet this group had higher bone density in their spines and hipbones than women in the “supplement group,” who consumed about 1,030 milligrams per day. Women in the “diet plus supplement group” tended to have the highest bone mineral density as well as the highest calcium intake at 1,620 milligrams per day.

So the combination seemed to have the most benefit. What I found so interesting was that the dietary calcium only group had higher bone density than the supplement group, even though their overall intake was lower. Remember the studies that came out a while back that found little benefit or actual harm from vitamin supplementation?

(I’ll say here, before I say this, that I am not an expert in nutrition.) I had fully expected to see more results like that. We know so little, comparatively, about what’s in the foods we eat and how our body uses it. We know that protein/fat/carbohydrate isn’t the end of the story as far as what the body needs. Vitamins in isolation are clearly not at all the end of the story either.

So I’m going to keep eating my produce-rich diet and encouraging others to do the same: Get lots of color in your diet. Use unsaturated fats. Choose whole grains. We don’t know what all the compounds are that are making the difference, but they’re doing us good, even if we haven’t identified them or explained their purpose yet.

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