Calcium intake declines among Canadians, study finds

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags Calcium intake Calcium supplements Calcium supplementation Osteoporosis

A new study has found that calcium intakes have decreased in Canada in recent years as consumers eat less dairy products and use fewer calcium supplements.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition​, was conducted by researchers associated with the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.  The authors said the study was the first of its type to examine calcium intakes among Canadians in the 2004-2015 time period.

The paper examined data from two national health surveys in Canada.  The first, titled the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 2.2, was conducted in 2004.  The second, titled CCHS Nutrition, took place in 2015.

In both cases the surveys asked participants for a 24-hour recall of food intake.  The researchers then quantified the amount of calcium contributed by various food groups as well as how much was supplied by calcium supplements.

The data sets were large.  The study included weighted frequency dat from more than 30 million individual for the 2004 survey and almost 34 million for the 2015 version.

Declines across the board

The researchers noted that a previous look at data measured from the early 70s up to the time of the 2004 survey showed that calcium intakes for Canadians had increased significantly in that time period.

But the most recent data shows a reversal of that trend.  Calcium intakes decreased among all groups, except for supplement users. The percentage of calcium inadequacy among Canadians increased from 58% in 2004 to 68% in 2015.  Among supplement users, the calcium inadequacy percentage remained about the same at about 32%. But a smaller percentage of Canadians in all age and gender groups used calcium supplements in 2015 than was the case in 2004, the researchers found.

“We found that dietary calcium intake of Canadians considerably decreased from 2004 to 2015, which may be attributable to the parallel decrease in the contribution of calcium from the Milk and alternatives food group. During these 11 y, the percentage contribution of calcium from supplemental sources significantly decreased among Canadians, especially women. The prevalence of calcium supplement use also significantly decreased among Canadians,”​ the researchers wrote.

“This decreasing trend in consumption of dairy products and the use of calcium supplements should be taken into consideration by policy- makers in their efforts to decrease the high prevalence of calcium inadequacy,”​ they added.

For reasons for this decline the researchers pointed toward recent scientific studies in the 2008-2014 time frame linking high calcium intake to a higher risk of cardiovascular events.  And the researchers noted that the group Osteoporosis Canada has advocated that Canadians get their calcium from their diet first, even though the results of the recent research shows that few are doing so in an adequate way.

CRN: Cause for concern

Andrea Wong, PhD, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said CRN is concerned about the result of the Canadian study, which mirrors calcium intake declines observed in the United States and a number of other countries.

“CRN sees the results of the study as potentially concerning as we know how important calcium is for a host of critical functions in the body, especially building strong bones. All people have a basic need for calcium for overall health and government research demonstrates that most people do not get a sufficient amount of the nutrient. Calcium is identified as a nutrient of public health concern in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” ​Wong said

Well-established research continues to point to the value of calcium supplementation, particularly for people most likely to develop osteoporosis or bone loss. CRN encourages consumers to always talk with their doctors or healthcare practitioners about developing their own individualized plan to evaluate their calcium status for a possible deficiency and consider the potential benefits of supplementation,”​ she added.

Source: The Journal of Nutrition
2019 Dec 31. pii: nxz318. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz318. [Epub ahead of print]
Calcium Intake from Food and Supplemental Sources Decreased in the Canadian Population from 2004 to 2015
Authors: Vatanparast H, et al.

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