efficiency of reabsorption; the latter is regulated primarily by the PTH level. With aging, the urinary loss of calcium decreases (Davis et al., 1970), possibly because of an age-related decrease in intestinal calcium absorption efficiency and an associated reduction in filtered calcium load. Endogenous fecal calcium excretion does not change appreciably with aging (Heaney and Recker, 1994).
Racial differences in calcium metabolism have been noted in children and adults. In children and adolescents aged 9 to 18 years, Bell and colleagues (1993) found that African Americans had similar calcium absorption efficiency but lower urinary calcium excretion than Caucasians. Abrams and colleagues (1996a) found absorption efficiency to be similar in prepubertal African American and Caucasian girls or boys but greater in African American girls after menarche. In their study, urinary calcium excretion was lower in African American girls before menarche but similar in postmenarcheal African American and Caucasian girls. These metabolic differences may contribute to the widely observed higher bone mass in African American children (Bell et al., 1991; Gilsanz et al., 1991) and adults (Cohn et al., 1977; Liel et al., 1988; Luckey et al., 1989), and to lower fracture rates in African American adults in the United States (Farmer et al., 1984; Kellie and Brody, 1990). However, their implications for the calcium intake requirement are not clear, and observed differences do not warrant race-specific recommendations at this time.
When evaluating the food sources of calcium, the calcium content is generally of greater importance than bioavailability. Calcium absorption efficiency is fairly similar from most foods, including milk and milk products and grains (major food sources of calcium in North American diets). It should be noted that calcium may be poorly absorbed from foods rich in oxalic acid (spinach, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and beans) or phytic acid (unleavened bread, raw beans, seeds, nuts and grains, and soy isolates). Soybeans contain large amounts of phytic acid, yet calcium absorption is relatively high from this food (Heaney et al., 1991). In comparison to calcium absorption from milk, calcium absorption from dried beans is about half and from spinach is about one tenth. Because diets used in metabolic studies and in the general population contain calcium from a variety of sources, and because the specific foods used in