Purdue University researchers say that young women who take oral contraceptives should boost their calcium intake to offset the possibility of low bone density in later life. The new findings build on earlier research that showed that optimizing bone mass in adolescence and young adulthood prevents low bone density and osteoporosis later in life.
Purdue's Dorothy Teegarden said that around 80 percent of women in the U.S. use the pill at some point during the years in which peak bone mass is developing. "The results of our study suggest that the loss for this group can be prevented by increasing calcium intake," she explained.
The study, appearing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, compared oral contraceptive users to non-users between the ages of 18 and 30. At the end of the year long trial, women using oral contraceptives and consuming the medium (1,000 mg/day) or high (1,300 mg/day) dairy diet gained significantly more bone mineral density in their hips and spines compared to the low calcium intake group (800 mg/day). The recommended dietary allowance of calcium for women aged between 19 and 50 is 1,000 milligrams a day while the recommended daily allowance for adolescents is higher at 1,300 milligrams a day.
Teegarden said that the results suggest young women using oral contraceptives could reduce their risk of osteoporosis by up to 10 percent by making sure they get enough calcium in their diet. "This demonstrates the importance of calcium intake, either by getting enough dairy or with supplements," she concluded.