“Calcium supplementation significantly improves bone mass, implying that preventive calcium supplementation before or around achieving peak bone mass may be a shift in the window of intervention for osteoporosis,” wrote researchers from the School of Public Health and Management at Wenzhou Medical University, which funded the study.
The researchers identified 43 studies involving 7,382 subjects through a systematic search of 5,518 publications in the Pubmed, Embase, ProQuest, CENTRAL, WHO Global Index Medicus, Clinical Trials.gov, WHO ICTRP, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) and Wanfang Data from database inception to April 25, 2021.
Results covered randomized clinical trials assessing the effects of calcium supplementation on bone mineral density (BMD) or bone mineral content (BMC) in people under 35 years old.
Shifting the window
For the researchers, the findings “have critical implications for the early prevention of fractures in the elderly population” that require a whole life cycle approach to bone health rather than waiting until it’s too late.
“Instead of traditionally solving problems when they occurred, that is, treating osteoporosis after a patient has developed osteoporosis, our research attempted to explore the effects of preventive intervention before reaching the plateau and before osteoporosis development,” they wrote.
Calcium supplementation was associated with significant improvement in both bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC), especially on the femoral neck. And a subgroup analysis suggested that femoral neck improvements were more “more pronounced in the peripeak bone mass (PBM) population (20–35 years) than the pre-PBM population (<20 years).”
Billions in potential savings
“This is quite compelling evidence that people under 35 should consider taking a calcium supplement,” Luke Huber, ND, vice president of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), told NutraIngredients-USA.
Remarking on the comprehensiveness of “this major meta-analysis”, he added that optimization of calcium supplementation during childhood and early adulthood could reduce the risk of potentially deadly fractures later in life.
“Preventing femoral neck fractures is critical as 6% of cases lead to death during hospital treatment and 20-30% of people who experience them die within one year,” he said.
In its recent report “Supplements to Savings: Health Care Cost Savings from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements, 2022–2030”, CRN stresses how “investing in wellness through supplementation can save billions in disease prevention”.
It includes a chapter on osteoporosis and the benefits of supplementation, noting that osteoporosis costs America more than $28 billion a year, based on a per-person hospital-related cost of fracture of $12,197 in 2016. A case study highlights the positive effects of calcium and vitamin D in reducing the risk of fractures and avoiding medical costs.
“What is known is that many disease events require costly treatments, especially those associated with chronic diseases, and preventing at least some of these events from ever occurring would necessarily have an impact on future health care spending,” asserts the report commissioned from market insights firm Frost & Sullivan.
Source: eLife 11:e79002
“The effect of calcium supplementation in people under 35 years old: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials”
Authors: Yupeng Liu et al.