Now more than ever, adults worldwide continue to up their intake of calcium supplements in an attempt to cure osteoporosis. However, new research has revealed that intake of calcium supplements between the ages of 20 and 35 is the ideal time to prevent osteoporosis later in life. 

Prior studies show that taking calcium supplements to boost bone mass in the elderly, especially in postmenopausal women is farfetched. Chinese researchers then worked to investigate through randomized clinical trials the likelihood of preventing osteoporosis later in life before young adults attain Peak Bone Mass — which is mostly at the age of 35. 

Essentially, bone mass stops increasing on reaching the peak age of 35 years. This is followed by a subsequent decline in bone mass density as one age, thereby, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Since no link was found between calcium supplements and the improvement of bone mass in adults above 50 years in prior studies, study authors were curious to explore the benefit of preventing osteoporosis in the first instance. Importantly, this is the first meta-analysis on preventing osteoporosis later by looking at eating calcium before 35; where there’s little risk of bone fracture.

Researchers from Wenzhou Medical University in China examined data from 43 previously conducted trials encompassing a total of almost 7400 participants. The participants were classified into two groups. Of the 43, 23 were given calcium supplements while the remaining 20 were given a diet containing calcium. The average intake of calcium from the diet was approximately 714mg/day and didn’t exceed 1000mg/day.

It’s worth mentioning that the team narrowed down their focus to quality trials only involving participants below the age of 35. Alongside previous trials comparing calcium or calcium + vitamin D intake to those that received no treatment.

In addition to that, trials that also provided data on bone mass density and bone mass content of people below 35 were prioritized. The participants were further divided into two groups according to their age: Prepeak (those below 20 years) and Peripeak (those within the age range of 20 to 35 years).

The team scanned the data for changes caused by calcium intake in bone mass in the lower back, total hip, overall body, and most importantly the femoral neck (the common area bone fracture occurs in old age). 

The scientists found out that those within 20 to 35 years experienced stronger improvement of the bone mass at the hip than those below 20. For both sources of calcium, that is, diet and supplements, they also found that both had a positive impact on the bone mass of the femoral neck. Although, the increase in bone mass content was more prominent in the calcium supplements; especially in the femoral neck and lower back. This led the researchers to conclude that calcium supplementation amassed major growth in bone mass, particularly in the femoral neck.

“If you’re young, it’s better to take these calcium supplements before attaining 35 to improve body bone mineral density and lessen the risk of hip fracture in the future”, says Lead study author, Yupeng Liu. “Our findings suggest likely improvements on the femoral neck and bone mass density from both calcium sources — but only at a dose of 1000mg/day. Surpassing this amount has no particular added benefit”.  

During a follow-up period, the benefits of these supplements were found to linger for a year, only wearing off two years after the treatment was cut short. The Chinese researchers, however, see the need for more quality clinical trials to further validate their findings. 

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