Newer Perspectives on Calcium Nutrition and Bone Quality

Robert P. Heaney, Connie M. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


It is now generally accepted that an adequate calcium intake is important for building and maintaining a skeleton that expresses quantitatively the full genetic program and reduces lifetime fracture risk. In this brief review we focus mainly on a new and growing body of evidence indicating a benefit of adequate calcium intake on qualitative features of the skeleton that, independent of the quantity of bone, themselves influence skeletal strength and fragility. Change in bone mass and size during growth are dependent on both calcium intake and exercise, with the largest differences being observed in prepubertal children who have both high exercise levels and high calcium intakes. Much of this benefit is expressed as increased bone diameter (and hence stiffness). Fracture risk peaks at about the time of puberty and is inversely related to bone mass. However, even prepubertally. children with low calcium intakes have been reported to have a fracture rate 2.7× that of their birth cohort. Bone remodeling triples from age 50 to 65 in typical women and is now recognized to have primarily a homeostatic basis. While remodeling improves bone strength by repairing acquired defects, homeostatic remodeling, while necessary to maintain blood calcium levels, contributes only structural weakness to bone. High calcium intakes in postmenopausal and older women reduce this homeostatic remodeling to approximately pre-menopausal values and improve bone strength immediately, well prior to any appreciable change in bone mass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574S-581S
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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