In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined factors that influenced calcium absorption in a group of 142 pre- or perimenopausal healthy women aged 45 to 53. One-half the women followed their regular diet and the rest of the group were counseled to reduce their fat intake to 25% calories and they were encouraged to exercise more.
Predictors of calcium absorption included dietary fat, fiber, alcohol intake, and blood levels of vitamin D. In particular, the amount of dietary fat consumed in relation to dietary fiber appeared to have an important role in determining the differences in calcium absorption.
The average calcium absorption was 35%, but women who consumed the least fat and the most fibre absorbed 19% less calcium than women who consumed the most fat and least fibre.
The researchers speculate that fat may slow down movement of calcium through the intestine, giving it more time to be absorbed and then used by the body. High fibre diets may have the opposite effect, allowing less time for calcium absorption.
There was a modest but significant decline in the efficiency of calcium absorption among the women who were moderate alcohol drinkers.
This study doesn't mean you should abandon your low fat, high fibre diet. Just make sure you meet your daily calcium requirement (1000 to 1500 mg) and practice the following tips:
- Make sure you get enough vitamin D (200 - 600 I.U. per day) from milk, fortified soy beverages, oily fish, eggs, and margarine. This nutrient enhances calcium absorption. Exposing your skin to sunlight three times a week also produces vitamin D. If you don't think you're getting enough, take a multivitamin/mineral that offers 400 I.U. (international units).
- Don't pitch your high fibre breakfast cereal. Be sure to finish the milk in your bowl or try a calcium-enriched milk for an extra 100 mg of calcium per 250 ml.
- If you take iron pills, avoid taking them with high calcium meals. Iron and calcium compete for absorption.
- Drink tea and coffee one hour before or two hours after a meal; natural compounds inhibit calcium absorption.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.