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World Health Organization Reduces Calcium Recommendations: Just 400-500 mg Daily

In sharp contrast to ever-escalating calcium recommendations issued by U.S. authorities, a World Health Organization panel has called for a daily minimal intake of just 400-500 mg�and that only applies to older adults in countries with high fracture rates. The panel issued no minimal recommended intakes for countries with low fracture rates.

The panel cited �the calcium paradox��that hip fracture rates are high in developed countries where calcium intake is also high and low in countries where calcium intake is lower. The reason seems to be protein. The panel reported that �accumulated data indicate the possibility that the adverse effect of protein, in particular animal (but not vegetable) protein, might outweigh the positive effect of calcium intake in calcium balance.�

To prevent fractures, the panel also called for vitamin D supplementation of 5-10 mcg per day if sun exposure is limited, along with increased physical activity, reduced sodium intake, increased fruit and vegetable intake, maintenance of a healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco, and limiting alcohol use. Other sections of the report cover other major diseases.

The findings resonate with those from Harvard University�s Nurses� Health Study, which included 72,337 postmenopausal women. After 18 years of follow-up, neither milk nor a high-calcium diet reduced fracture risk. Vitamin D, on the other hand, did help: Women consuming at least 12.5 mcg of vitamin D daily in food or supplements had a 37% reduction in fracture risk.

Here are the references:

Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. WHO Technical Report Series 916: World Health Organization, Geneva, 2003.

Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-11.

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