The role of calcium intake in preventing bone fragility, hypertension, and certain cancers

M. J. Barger-Lux, R. P. Heaney

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60 Scopus citations


This paper examines the evidence that connects calcium intake and vitamin D status to bone fragility, hypertension, colon cancer, and breast cancer. Human calcium physiology, with an intestinal absorptive barrier and inefficient conservation, reflects the abundance of calcium in the primordial human food supply. The calcium intake of stone-age adults is estimated at 50 to 75 mmol/d, three to five times the median calcium intake of present-day U.S. adults. Long-term calcium restriction and/or insufficient vitamin D may promote the development of bone fragility, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and breast cancer in susceptible individuals. Conversely, improvement in calcium intake and/or in vitamin D status may help to prevent these serious health problems. At least 12 intervention studies have established the skeletal benefit of increased calcium intake among women in the late postmenopause. Other reports suggest that adequate calcium may protect against salt-sensitive and pregnancy-associated hypertension. High intakes of both dietary calcium and vitamin D are associated with reduced development of precancerous changes in colonic mucosa. Preliminary findings also suggest that vitamin D has a protective effect against breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1406S-1411S
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number8 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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