During the past two to three decades, an impressive amount of data in the medical literature have strongly suggested a role for an adequate intake of calcium and dairy foods in the reduction of the disease burden of several common medical conditions. In Western countries, diets are generally poor in calcium and the mean dietary calcium consumption tends to be much lower than those needed to maintain an equilibrated calcium balance, as suggested in the NIH recommendation, especially in older individuals.12
Considerable epidemiological and clinical trial data have confirmed the beneficial effect of a dietary approach with calcium supplementation in the prevention and treatment of a number of chronic disorders, such as osteoporosis and periodontal disease, hypertension and preeclampsia, obesity and insulin resistance and some cancers.
Optimal calcium intake may be achieved through diet, calcium-fortified foods or calcium supplements. An adequate dietary intake of calcium by both nutritional and supplemental means is a relatively inexpensive approach that may ensure several health beneficial effects. McCarron and Heaney have recently reviewed the evidence of the net benefits of an increased dairy food intake on these chronic medical conditions and the estimated improvements in outcomes were combined with available data on annual costs of the respective disorders. They have calculated that, using conservative estimates of potential benefit, the projected savings was (only in the US) of approximately $26 billion in the first year and of approximately $200 billion after 5 years.72 These data confirm the need for public health strategies that would help to ensure optimal calcium intake in the Western populations, and to develop health-promoting programs to change Western population behavior with respect to calcium intakes.
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