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Calcium subdues menstrual blues.

High doses of calcium may help alleviate the mood swings and physical discomfort many women experience before and during menstruation, according to a preliminary study.

Psychologist James G. Penland and his colleagues at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Grand Forks, N.D., studied 10 healthy women who experienced mild behavioral and physical symptoms the week before and during their menstrual periods. The researchers randomly assigned the women to either high (1,300 milligrams) or low (600 mg) daily doses of calcium, added to their food in liquid form. Halfway through the six-month study, the two groups switched dosages.

Nine out of 10 women reported a reduction in premenstrual mood problems -- such as crying, irritability and depression -- while on the high-calcium regimen, says Penland.

The extra calcium also seemed to allay the physical discomforts accompanying menstruation itself. For example, seven out of 10 women reported a reduction in cramps and backaches while on the high-calcium diet.

The U.S. recommended daily allowance for calcium is 800 mg for women age 25 and older, but Penland says many women consume much less than that. While volunteers in his study received liquid calcium supplements, he notes that women can boost their intake of this essential mineral by eating more dairy foods. (To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, most experts recommend low-fat dairy foods such as skim milk and nonfat yogurt.)

Last year, another research team suggested that women with premenstrual syndrome may have low blood levels of zinc (SN: 10/27/90, p.263). That work suggests trace amounts of zinc may help regulate key hormones, such as progesterone, that may play a role in menstrual troubles. Taken together, these two preliminary studies support the notion that such nutrients somehow fit into the complex puzzle of premenstrual syndrome, Penland says.
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Title Annotation:calcium alleviates mood swings and physical discomforts
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 20, 1991
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