Taking Extra Calcium May Require Added Zinc

Consuming extra calcium from dairy products or supplements could put older women at risk of low zinc — unless they get extra zinc, too.

That’s the word from two studies at the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Research Center in Boston.

Zinc’s many functions include helping to maintain a healthy immune system, skin and appetite.

Calcium supplement sales have soared with the growing awareness that high intakes of this mineral help prevent osteoporosis. Richard J. Wood and associates looked for a zinc-calcium interaction in elderly women because, as a group, they tend to have low zinc intakes.

About half of U.S. women consume less than two-thirds the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 12 mg, according to survey data. And the amount of zinc people absorb from their meals decreases with age.

In one of the new studies, 18 relatively healthy women past menopause increased calcium intake to 1,360 milligrams daily — a little higher than the 1,200 mg now recommended for people over age 50. Their zinc absorption dropped by an average of about 2 milligrams. This happened regardless of whether they got the extra calcium from milk or from a calcium supplement. The study lasted 36 days.

In a second study, zinc absorption dropped by half when a group of 10 men and women took a calcium supplement with a single test meal. But adding nearly 8 milligrams of zinc to the calcium supplement offset this effect.

This data points in the direction that people taking extra calcium should also increase their zinc intake. The richest dietary sources of zinc are oysters, liver and beef, followed by whole grains, nuts, popcorn, poultry and lamb. Zinc supplements are also widely available.

Comments from the blog author Nutrition Breakthroughs: Calcium is directly related to our cycles of sleep. In one study, published in the European Neurology Journal, researchers found that calcium levels in the body are higher during some of the deepest levels of sleep, such as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase.

The study concluded that disturbances in sleep, especially the absence of REM deep sleep or disturbed REM sleep, are related to a calcium deficiency.  Supplements containing calcium for sleep should also contain magnesium, vitamin D and zinc to ensure a balance of ingredients.

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Article Source: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/1998/980120.htm#