Objective: To update the evidence-based consensus opinion published by The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in 2001 on the role of calcium in peri- and postmenopausal women.
Design: NAMS followed the general principles established for evidence-based guidelines to create this document. A panel of clinicians and researchers acknowledged to be experts in the field of calcium and women's health was enlisted to review the previous position statement and data published since then, compile supporting statements, and make recommendations. Their advice was used to assist the NAMS Board of Trustees in publishing this position statement.
Results: Adequate calcium intake (in the presence of adequate vitamin D status) has been shown to reduce bone loss in peri- and postmenopausal women and reduce fractures in postmenopausal women older than age 60 with low calcium intakes. Adequate calcium is considered a key component of any bone-protective therapeutic regimen. 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 has not been fully elucidated. The calcium requirement rises at menopause. The target calcium intake for most postmenopausal women is 1,200 mg/day. Adequate vitamin D status, defined as 30 ng/mL or more of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (usually achieved with a daily oral intake of at least 400 to 600 IU), is required to achieve the nutritional benefits of calcium. The best source of calcium is food, and the best food source is dairy products. High-quality calcium supplements (taken in divided doses) are alternative sources for women unable to consume enough dietary calcium. There are no reported cases of calcium intoxication from food sources, and cases associated with supplements are rare (high intake levels of 2,150 mg/day have resulted in a 17% increase in renal calculi in one recent study, but not others). Because no accurate test to determine calcium deficiency exists, clinicians should focus instead on encouraging women to consume enough calcium to meet the recommended levels.
Conclusions: The most definitive role for calcium in peri- and postmenopausal women is in bone health, but, like most nutrients, calcium has beneficial effects in many body systems. Based on the available evidence, there is strong support for the importance of ensuring adequate calcium intake in all women, particularly those in peri- or postmenopause.