The optimal intake of calcium and vitamin D for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen is not known. Further, there are indications that excess vitamin A as retinol might be detrimental to bone.
We determined whether dietary intakes of calcium and vitamin D were important for maintaining cortical and trabecular bone mineral density (BMD). We also determined whether nutrient supplements increased retinol intake to a level that would reduce BMD.
This was a cross-sectional study of 58 women, age 45-75 years. Dietary intakes and lifestyle factors were assessed by retrospective questionnaires. BMD at the whole body, lumbar spine, and proximal femur (including neck, trochanter, and Wards) was measured using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) bone densitometry.
There were significant (p < 0.05) positive correlations between total calcium intake and BMD at all sites except spine. At the trochanter, the correlation between total vitamin D and BMD was significant while that between total retinol and BMD showed a trend (p < 0.10). In a stepwise multiple regression, a significant proportion of variance of BMD was accounted for by years since menopause (8.0 to 36.2 %) and body weight (14.5 to 27.1%) at most bone sites. Adding total calcium intake (food + supplements) into the model further accounted for a significant proportion of variance of BMD at cortical bone sites such as hip, femoral neck, Wards, and total body (5.2 - 8.4 %). There was no dietary calcium effect on BMD at the spine.
The positive effect of total calcium intake on cortical BMD of postmenopausal women not taking estrogen suggests that supplemental calcium use is critical for maintaining bone mass. Increased retinol intake from nutrient supplements had no adverse effect on BMD.