A Co-twin Study of the Effect of
Calcium Supplementation
on Bone Density During Adolescence

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Osteoporosis International 1997;   7 (3):   219225

Nowson CA, Green RM, Hopper JL, Sherwin AJ, Young D, Kaymakci B, Guest CS, Smid M, Larkins RG, Wark JD

University of Melbourne,
Department of Medicine (Royal Melbourne Hospital),
Parkville, Victoria, Australia

This study of 84 twins, ages 9 to 14, found that within the first six months of an 18-month study, the twin given 1,000 mg calcium/day grew heavier bones than the one taking a placebo.

The effect of calcium supplementation on bone mineral density (BMD) was evaluated in female twin pairs aged 10-17 years with a mean age of 14 years. Forty-two twin pairs (22 monozygotic, 20 dizygotic; (including one monozygotic pair from a set of triplets) completed at least 6 months of the intervention: 37 pairs to 12 months and 28 pairs to 18 months. BMD was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). In a double-blind manner, one twin in each pair was randomly assigned to receive daily a 1000 mg effervescent calcium tablet (Sandocal 1000), and the other a placebo tablet similar in taste and appearance to the calcium supplement but containing no calcium. Compliance (at least 80% tablets consumed), as measured by tablet count, was 85% in the placebo group and 83% in the calcium group over the 18 months of the study, on average increasing dietary calcium to over 1600 mg/day. There was no within-pair difference in the change in height or weight. When the effect of calcium supplementation on BMD was compared with placebo at approximately 6, 12 and 18 months, it was found that there was a 0.015 +/- 0.007 g/ cm2 greater increase in BMD (1.62 +/- 0.84%) at the spine in those on calcium after 18 months. At the end of the first 6 months there was a significant within-pair difference of 1.53 +/- 0.56% at the spine and 1.27 +/- 0.50% at the hip. However, there were no significant differences in the changes in BMD after the initial effect over the first 6 months. Therefore, we found an increase in BMD at the spine with calcium supplementation in females with a mean age of 14 years. The greatest effect was seen in the first 6 months; thereafter the difference was maintained, but there was no accelerated increase in BMD associated with calcium supplementation. The continuance of the intervention until the attainment of peak bone mass and follow-up after cessation of calcium supplementation will be important in clarifying the optimal timing for increased dietary calcium and the sustained, long-term effects of this intervention.

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