A Pilot Intervention to Increase Calcium Intake in Female Collegiate Athletes


Calcium intake in adolescent and young adult female athletes often is inadequate to optimize peak bone mass, an important determinant of osteoporosis risk. The purpose of this study was to determine if calcium supplementation in eumenorrheic female collegiate athletes increases intake to recommended levels and promotes increases in bone mineral density (BMD). Forty-eight eumenorrheic female athletes from several college teams (15 soccer, 7 cross-country, 8 indoor track, and 18 basketball) were randomized at the beginning of a competitive season to receive either an oral calcium supplement (1000 mg calcium citrate/400 I.U. Vitamin D) or placebo daily throughout the training season (16 weeks). Self-reported daily pill intake was obtained every 2 weeks to assess adherence. Calcium intake was evaluated using the Rapid Assessment Method, and total body and leg BMD was measured at pre-, mid-, and post-season using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA; Hologic QDR-2000). Pre-season calcium intake was lower than national recommendations for this age group (12), averaging 842 mg/d (SD = 719) and was lower in the placebo group compared to the supplemented group (649 ± 268 vs. 1071 ± 986 mg/d, respectively; p = .064). Adherence to supplementation was good, averaging 70% across the training season. Supplementation boosted total calcium intake to a mean of 1397 ± 411 mg/d, which is consistent with recommended levels for this group (37). Supplementation did not influence BMD change during this 16-week intervention. Across teams, a small increase of 0.8% was observed in leg BMD. Change in total body BMD was modified by team, with a significant increase of 1.5% observed in basketball players. These results indicate that providing calcium supplements of 1000 mg/d is adequate to boost total intake to recommended levels during athletic training. Longer intervention trials are required to determine whether calcium supplementation has a positive effect on BMD.

Publication Title

International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism