Calcium requirements of pregnant women in The Gambia ISRCTN96502494

ING Staff: Landing Jarjou, Ann Prentice, Yankuba Sawo, Kate Ward, Inez Schoenmakers, Gail Goldberg


For many women, especially in traditional societies in Africa and elsewhere, calcium intakes are low, and the demands on calcium economy are high because of repeated cycles of pregnancy and lactation. Such low calcium intakes during pregnancy may be insufficient to meet requirements and compromise the bone health of the mother or her infant in the short and long term.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of calcium supplementation (1500 mg Ca/d) in pregnant women in The Gambia we found that the calcium supplement was of no significant benefit to the infant (birth weight, growth, and bone mineral status in the first year) and had no significant effect on breast-milk calcium concentrations. Women who received the calcium supplement in pregnancy had significantly lower bone mineral content, bone area, and bone mineral density at the hip throughout 12 mo lactation. The women also experienced greater decreases in bone mineral during lactation at the lumbar spine and distal radius and had biochemical changes consistent with greater bone mineral mobilization.

We are measuring the mothers again, when non-pregnant and non-lactating, and their children are being followed up regularly throughout childhood and puberty.

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