Low Calcium Intake Prevalent in Women Despite Socioeconomic Status


INDIAN WELLS, CALIF. — Even educated women of high socioeconomic status do not appear to get enough calcium, Andrea Stein, M.D., said at the annual meeting of the Pacific Coast Reproductive Society.

In a survey of 180 middle-aged patients seen in her gynecology practice, in a wealthy area of the Los Angeles region, more than 50% apparently consume less than 1,000–1,500 mg of calcium per day, Dr. Stein said. Overall, 86% of the patients had a college degree, and 36% had an advanced degree. All were 45 years old or older.

Of the 99 patients taking no medications, 75% took a calcium supplement once a day or less, and 48% had a milk product once a day or less. Of the 60 on hormone therapy, 68% took a calcium supplement once a day or less, and 43% had a milk product once or less a day.

For the 21 patients taking a bisphosphonate, raloxifene, or calcitonin, the percentages were 48% and 33%.

A single calcium supplement or a single serving will not provide the recommended amount of calcium for a woman aged 50 years or older, which is 1,200–1,500 mg/day, noted Dr. Stein, whose practice is in Santa Monica, Calif. Supplements contain 500–600 mg elemental calcium per tablet, because that is the maximum an individual can absorb at one time. A single serving of skim milk, yogurt, or cheese contains 300 mg or less of calcium.

The findings suggest women of high socioeconomic status are somewhat better at getting adequate calcium than those of low socioeconomic status, but only marginally so, Dr. Stein said. According to data, 80% of low-income women do not get adequate daily calcium.

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