Bone FractureCalciumDiet-Nutrition

Calcium from diet or supplements: Does it matter?

In postmenopausal women, calcium from dietary sources is associated with more favorable effects in bone health than calcium from supplements.

First, the details.

  • The researchers asked 183 women to meticulously detail their diet and calcium supplement intake for a week, assuming it represented each woman’s typical diet.
  • The “diet group,” got at least 70% of their calcium from dairy products and other foods.
  • The “supplement group” got at least 70% of their daily calcium from tablets or pills.
  • The “diet plus supplement group,” fell somewhere in between these ranges.

And, the results.

  • The “diet group” took in the least calcium — about 830 mg/day.
  • But they had higher bone density in their spines and hipbones than the “supplement group,” which consumed about 1,030 mg/day.
  • The “diet plus supplement group” had the highest calcium intake at 1,620 mg/day and the highest bone mineral density as well.
  • Also, women in the “diet group” and the “diet plus supplement group” had a higher ratio of active to inactive estrogen metabolites than women in the “supplement group.”

The bottom line?
“This suggests that dietary calcium is associated with a shift in estrogen metabolism that favors production of active forms of estrogen,” says Dr. Reina Armamento-Villareal from Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.

The exact reason for this response isn’t known. But, “dairy products, which are a major source of calcium, can contain active estrogenic compounds, and these can influence bone density.”

6/23/07 21:05 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.