Calcium not only builds strong bones and teeth but has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, prevent weight gain and help decrease the risk of certain cancers. Unfortunately, many consumers are not getting enough. In fact, the Surgeon General recently reported that more than 75% of Americans are calcium deficient.
Recommended levels vary from 1,000-1,500mg daily, depending upon age and sex, but the average adult in the United States today consumes only between 200 and 600mg of calcium daily. In most cases, that is less than half the daily recommendation. This discrepancy between calcium intake and the daily requirements is commonly called the "calcium gap."
Why the gap existsThe calcium gap exists because consumers are not eating enough calcium-rich foods. And, to make matters worse, only one-quarter to one-half of the calcium eaten is actually absorbed by the body. Furthermore, the body's ability to absorb calcium declines with age and is affected by a number of medications. Fortunately, there are several strategies to fill the calcium gap.
The most obvious way to fill the gap is to consume more foods that are rich in calcium. One food group that is naturally high in calcium is dairy. Many people depend upon dairy products to deliver the total amount of calcium they need, while those who are lactose intolerant must turn to other food sources naturally high in calcium, fortified foods or supplements.
Supplemental calcium is available in a variety of forms that vary in cost and bioavailability. But overall, food sources are still thought to be best for absorption.
Aside from consuming more calcium-rich food products and taking dietary supplements, consumers can also close the calcium gap by absorbing more calcium from the foods they are already eating.
Recent clinical studies have shown that Raftilose® Synergy 1 enriched inulin from Orafti Active Food Ingredients, Malvern, Pa., helps to boost calcium absorption by about 20%.
In a study led by Professor Steven Abrams at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, 29 girls aged 11 to 14 years old consumed 8g/day of Raftilose Synergy 1 or a placebo (8g/day sucrose), along with a calcium-fortified diet (1,300mg calcium/day) for three weeks. At the end of each three-week period, calcium absorption and urinary calcium excretion were monitored. During the placebo period of the study, 32% of the consumed calcium was absorbed, whereas with Raftilose Synergy 1, 38% of the consumed calcium was absorbed. This represents a relative increase of approximately 20%-a significant increase over placebo.
In a separate study at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System in California, 15 healthy post-menopausal women received 6g of Raftilose Synergy 1 or a placebo twice a day for six weeks. Raftilose Synergy 1 increased calcium uptake by 20%, as compared to the placebo.
Although meeting calcium requirements is a large concern for post-menopausal women who are at increased risk for osteoporosis, closing the calcium gap is most important for young women who are actively building bone. Ensuring optimal calcium nutrition will allow these young women to achieve their peak bone mass, which will lessen the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The dairy industry can help children and adults close the calcium gap by formulating dairy products enriched with Raftilose Synergy 1.