Adolescent girls who take calcium supplements may increase their total body bone mineral density (BMD), an effect that is sustained over time during puberty, according to two reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. These findings may have implications for the prevention of fractures during growth and osteoporosis later in life.

Researchers at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, previously showed that calcium supplementation (1000 mg calcium carbonate per day) for 1 year enhanced bone mineral density in menstruating adolescent girls. In the current study, the researchers followed these girls for 3.5 years after they stopped taking calcium supplements.

Total body BMD accumulation tended to be higher in the calcium-supplemented group. Statistically significant differences were observed in subjects who took at least 75 percent of the prescribed calcium supplements.

This study supports the idea that calcium supplementation may provide a sustained effect on BMD and positively influence bone accretion during growth.

In the second study, researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus randomly assigned girls to calcium supplements 1000 mg per day or placebo. After 4 years, the authors observed "highly significant treatment effects" on total body BMD, but the effects diminished thereafter.

Because calcium requirements may vary from one ethnic group to another, the researchers recommend that every country should develop its own standards for calcium intake that are specific to the people living in the region.

These results may be important for the prevention of bone fragility fractures during growth, as well as for the prevention of osteoporosis.

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