Ability to absorb calcium may slow rate of bone loss, find University of Pittsburgh researchers

October 04, 1999

Age-related declines in the amount of calcium absorbed by the body contribute to bone loss among older men, especially after the age of 80, according to Randi L. Wolf, Ph.D., research associate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, who presented these new findings from a long-term study Sunday, Oct. 3, at the national meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).

"We found that as the men aged, the amount of calcium absorbed by their bodies dropped, putting them at increased risk of osteoporosis," said Dr. Wolf, principal investigator on the study. "This means that men should probably increase their consumption of calcium as they age to keep up with those losses and avoid the debilitating effects of osteoporosis."

The study evaluated 234 men ages 58-91 participating in the federally funded Study of Osteoporotic Risk in Men. Their bone mineral density was measured at baseline and again after 6.8 years. Low bone mineral density indicates the bone-weakening condition known as osteoporosis. At the follow-up, researchers also assessed participants' calcium absorption (a measure of how well the body absorbs calcium from the gut), body mass, dietary and supplemental calcium intake and a variety of lifestyle factors, along with blood levels of the hormones vitamin D, parathyroid, estradiol and testosterone.

Researchers found that calcium absorption decreased with age, dropping even more dramatically after the age of 80, and that higher levels of fractional calcium absorption were associated with slower rates of hip bone loss in aging men.

According to Dr. Wolf, "It appears that the hormonal form of vitamin D, which is the main regulator of intestinal calcium absorption, may have an important role. We are conducting more research to better understand the reasons for why calcium absorption declines with age in men."

At the ASBMR meeting, Dr. Wolf received a Young Investigator Award for her work on this study.
-end-


University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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