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Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Dec;68(6):1291-7.

Age-related osteoporosis in Chinese: an evaluation of the response of intestinal calcium absorption and calcitropic hormones to dietary calcium deprivation.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, China.



Age-related osteoporosis may be associated with inefficient intestinal calcium absorption and bone remodeling.


We investigated the pathogenesis of age-related osteoporosis in Chinese women with habitual low calcium intakes.


We studied the response of intestinal calcium absorption, calcitropic hormones, and biochemical bone markers to graded dietary calcium deprivation.


The osteoporotic subjects (n = 25) had higher urinary calcium excretion (P < 0.05) and lower plasma 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D concentrations (P < 0.02) than did age-matched control women (n = 25). Parathyroid hormone was not significantly different from that in age-matched control women but was significantly higher than in young women (n = 15, P < 0.05). Fractional 45Ca absorption was approximately 61% in all 3 groups when the diet was unmodified and increased to 71%, 69%, and 68% in the osteoporotic subjects, age-matched control women, and young women, respectively, when dietary calcium was reduced to 300 mg/d. When the osteoporotic women were calcium deprived, serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D failed to increase but urinary calcium excretion persisted. In contrast, supplementation with 1200 mg Ca resulted in a lowering of parathyroid hormone (P < 0.005 compared with the unmodified diet) and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (P < 0.01) and decreased fractional 45Ca absorption (P < 0.01), suggesting that the increased calcium intake was associated with a potent compensatory ability of the intestine and calcitropic hormones to adapt. Calcium supplementation lowered osteocalcin (P < 0.05) but not alkaline phosphatase, which remained elevated in the osteoporotic subjects at all stages.


Elderly osteoporotic women had reduced 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D production, excessive urinary calcium loss, and high bone turnover. The Chinese women had exceptionally potent intestinal calcium absorption.

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