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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Jan 15;306(2):E177-88. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00556.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 3.

Pre-suckling calcium supplementation effectively prevents lactation-induced osteopenia in rats.

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Center of Calcium and Bone Research (COCAB Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand;


During lactation, osteoclast-mediated bone resorption and intestinal calcium hyperabsorption help provide extra calcium for lactogenesis. Since the suckling-induced surge of pituitary prolactin (PRL) rapidly stimulates calcium absorption in lactating rats, it is hypothesized that pre-suckling oral calcium supplementation should be an efficient regimen to shift the calcium source from bone to diet, thereby slowing lactation-induced osteopenia. Our results showed that 30-min suckling markedly stimulated maternal duodenal calcium transport, which returned to the baseline at 45 min. Lactating rats given 4 mg/kg per dose calcium via a gavage tube at 90 min pre-suckling 4 doses a day for 14 days prevented a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) of long bones and vertebrae. On the other hand, a single-dose supplementation, despite the same amount of calcium per day, appeared less effective. Because glucose and galactose further stimulated duodenal calcium transport in lactating rats, pre-suckling calcium supplement containing both sugars successfully normalized plasma ionized calcium and led to better bone gain than that with calcium alone. A histomorphometric study revealed that lactating rats given pre-suckling calcium plus monosaccharide supplement manifested greater trabecular bone volume and thickness and exhibited less eroded surface than in vehicle-treated lactating rats. Beneficial effects of the 14-day calcium supplementation persisted until 6 mo postweaning in dams and also elevated the baseline BMD of the offspring. In conclusion, our proof-of-concept study has corroborated that pre-suckling calcium supplements, especially regimens containing monosaccharides, are efficient in preventing osteopenia in lactating rats and could increase bone density in both breastfeeding mothers and neonates.


bone histomorphometry; bone mineral density; intestinal calcium absorption; lactation-induced osteoporosis; oral calcium supplement

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