most of the published studies were not described, adjusting for varying bioavailability was not considered in setting the calcium intake requirements.
Bioavailability of calcium when measured from nonfood sources, or supplements, depends on the presence or absence of a meal and the size of the dose. Supplement solubility is not very important (Heaney et al., 1990a), but tablet disintegration (for example, breaking apart) is essential (Whiting and Pluhator, 1992). In studies that measured calcium absorption under similar test conditions, a 250 mg (6.2 mmol) elemental calcium load given with a standardized breakfast meal resulted in average fractional absorption rates of calcium from calcium citrate malate, calcium carbonate, and tricalcium phosphate of 35, 27, and 25 percent, respectively (Heaney et al., 1989, 1990a; Miller et al., 1988; Smith et al., 1987). Under the same conditions, absorption of calcium from milk was similar at 29 percent. Individuals with achlorhydria absorb calcium from calcium carbonate poorly unless the supplement is taken with a meal (Recker, 1985). The efficiency of absorption of calcium from supplements is greatest when calcium is taken in doses of 500 mg (12.5 mmol) or less (Heaney et al., 1975, 1988).
The concept that weight-bearing physical activity or mechanical loading determines the strength, shape, and mass of bone is generally accepted (Frost, 1987). The mechanisms by which exercise influences bone mass and structure are currently under investigation (Frost, 1997). Although exercise and calcium intake both influence bone mass, it is unclear whether calcium intake influences the degree of benefit derived from exercise. Under the extreme condition of immobilization, rapid bone loss occurs despite consumption of 1,000 mg (25 mmol)/day of calcium (LeBlanc et al., 1995). In a 3-year calcium intervention study in children aged 6 to 14 years, both calcium and exercise influenced the rate of bone mineralization, but their effects appeared to be independent (Slemenda et al., 1994). Specker (1996) reviewed published prospective exercise studies in which calcium intake data were provided. Sixteen studies were identified, 15 conducted in women and 1 in men. High daily calcium intakes (over 1,000 mg [25 mmol]) enhanced the bone mineral density (BMD) benefits from exercise at the lumbar spine, but enhancement at the radius was less pronounced. Additional prospective studies are needed to test and compare individual and combined effects of calcium and exercise.