Taking calcium supplements before age 35 can prevent osteoporosis

This disease affects 3 million people in every country, which represents a prevalence of 5.4% among the general population

Nearly 3 million people in every country suffer from osteoporosis, a disease described as ‘silent ‘, because it does not give symptoms, which causes brittle bones , which can lead to their fracture, even in the event of a slight fall. More than 330,000 cases of fragility fractures occur each year , a figure that may rise to 420,000 per year from 2030, according to experts. These fractures are painful and often result in a loss of mobility. In turn, they are associated with higher mortality, morbidity and an increased risk of suffering another fracture.

Osteoporosis is a disease associated with age . People reach their peak of maximum bone mass around the age of 35 and from that moment on, it begins to be lost . This process is even more pronounced in women , especially after menopause , when a series of hormonal changes occur that are the main trigger of osteoporosis. Being an asymptomatic disease , regular check -ups are important to detect the disease, as well as avoiding sedentary lifestyles .

Now, new research published in the scientific journal eLife points to a new and easy way adults can proactively protect their bones from a young age . The study authors suggest that taking calcium supplements between the ages of 20 and 35 may help prevent osteoporosis years later.

“Osteoporosis and fractures are major global public health problems, especially in older women,” explains lead author Yupeng Liu, a researcher at the School of Public Health and Management at Wenzhou Medical University, China. “However, calcium supplementation has been used extensively in the elderly to increase bone mass, with several studies suggesting that it is unlikely to translate into clinically significant reductions in fractures. On the other hand, intervention before young adults reach peak bone density could have a greater impact on bone health and prevent osteoporosis later in life,” he adds.

The research team looked for randomized controlled trials comparing calcium or calcium plus vitamin D with a placebo or no treatment in participants younger than 35 years. They focused on reported results for bone mineral density (BMD) or bone mineral content (BMC) .

In total, the project ended up encompassing 43 previous studies in which more than 7,300 people participated . Among those studies, 20 looked at dietary calcium and 23 looked at calcium supplementation. They then combined all the data to look at changes in BMD and BMC at the lumbar spine, femoral neck, total hip, and whole body.

Their main finding was that calcium supplementation in people under 35 years of age can significantly improve both total body and femoral neck BMD levels. They also slightly increase the BMC of the femoral neck, total body, and lumbar spine. Compared with people younger than 20 years (the age of pre-peak bone mass), these benefits were more pronounced among participants between the ages of 20 and 35 years (the age of peri-peak bone mass, where bone mass stabilizes ).

Importantly, both dietary sources of calcium and calcium supplements had positive effects on femoral neck and total body BMD. However, femoral neck and lumbar spine BMC measurements only improved after calcium supplementation . There were also conflicting results regarding the importance of vitamin D. The combination of calcium and vitamin D was more beneficial for femoral neck bone mineral density and content, but not for lumbar spine and total body BMC , nor for total body BMD.

The authors conclude that calcium supplementation can significantly improve both bone mineral density and content, especially in the neck, and that taking calcium supplements during the age of peri-peak bone mass (ages 20-35) has a greater effect compared to younger or older age.

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