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Twofold path to saving aging bones.

Physicians typically prescribe exercise or a diet rich in dairy products to slow a woman's postmenopausal loss of bone mass. A study of 36 postmenopausal women has now confirmed that exercise and calcium-rich dairy products do help prevent major bone loss. The new findings also hold a surprise: Calcium and exercise bolster different bones.

Half the women in the study agreed to take part in a vigorous, supervised 50-minute walk four times a week. The remainder, who led more sedentary lives, did not engage in any regular exercise regimen during the year-long study. Dietitians helped all the women adjust their diets to provide 800 milligrams of calcium per day. In addition, half the women in each group were randomly selected to receive a daily milk-based supplement containing 831 mg calcium. The rest drank a similar supplement containing only 41 mg calcium.

By the end of the study, trabecular bone mass in the spine had increased by 0.5 percent in the exercising women and decreased by 7 percent in the sedentary women, report Miriam E. Nelson and her colleagues at USDA's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, at Tufts University in Boston. The level of calcium supplementation had no effect on the degree of trabecular change, they note in the May AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CLINICAL NUTRITION.

Conversely, the calcium level -- but not the exercise -- affected a thighbone section called the femoral neck. Here, bone density increased by 2 percent in women drinking the high-calcium supplement and diminished by 1.1 percent in the lower-calcium group.

The team advises healthy women to increase their exercise and their calcium intake "at the earliest possible age."
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Title Annotation:calcium and exercise bolster different bones in slowing a woman's postmenopausal loss of bone mass
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 8, 1991
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