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The role of calcium in peri-and postmenopausal women: consensus opinion of The North American Menopause Society

Consensus Opinion

Objective: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) established a goal to review the published medical data and develop an evidence-based consensus opinion regarding the role of calcium in peri-and postmenopausal women.

Design: In building this consensus opinion, NAMS followed the general principles established for evidence-based guidelines. As part of that process, NAMS appointed a panel of clinicians and researchers acknowledged to be experts in the field of calcium. Their advice was used to assist the NAMS Board of Trustees in developing this consensus opinion.

Results: Adequate calcium intake (in the presence of adequate vitamin D intake) has been shown to prevent bone loss and reduce fracture risk in peri-and postmenopausal women. Although calcium is not as effective as antiresorptive agents (e.g., estrogen, selective estrogen-receptor modulators, or bisphosphonates), it is an essential component of antiresorptive agent therapy for osteoporosis. Calcium has also been associated with beneficial effects in several nonskeletal disorders, primarily hypertension, colorectal cancer, obesity, and nephrolithiasis, although the extent of those effects and mechanisms involved have not been fully explored. Estimates of adequate intakes of calcium for peri-and postmenopausal women are based on evidence relating to osteoporosis prevention. At least 1,200 mg/day of calcium is required for most women; levels greater than 2,500 mg/day are not recommended. To ensure adequate calcium absorption, a daily intake of 400–600 IU of vitamin D is recommended, either through sun exposure or through diet or supplementation. Since no accurate test to determine calcium deficiency exists, clinicians should focus instead on ensuring that a woman consumes enough calcium to meet the recommended levels.

Conclusion: Although the most definitive role for calcium in peri-and postmenopausal women is in bone health, it is clear that adequate calcium intake has implications that encompass a woman's overall health. Based on the available evidence, a strong statement can be made regarding the importance of ensuring adequate calcium intake in all women, particularly those in peri-or postmenopause.

Received November 27, 2000.

The Board of Trustees of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) developed this consensus opinion with assistance from the following panel of experts: Robert P. Heaney, MD (Chair); Bess Dawson-Hughes, MD; J. C. Gallagher, MD; Robert Marcus, MD; and Jeri W. Nieves, PhD.

Address reprint requests to NAMS, P.O. Box 94527, Cleveland, OH 44101, USA.

©2001The North American Menopause Society