Calcium In Early Life Is Important
During an 18-day trial involving newborn pigs, researchers found markedly lower levels of bone density and strength in pigs fed a calcium-deficient diet, compared to pigs that received more calcium. When researchers looked at certain stem cells in bone marrow, they found many of these cells in the calcium-deficient pigs appeared to have already been programmed to become fat cells, instead of bone-forming cells. Because these programmed mesenchymal stem cells replicate to provide all the bone-forming cells for an animal’s entire life, very early calcium deficiency may have predisposed the pigs to have bones that contain more fat and less mineral, possibly making those pigs more prone to osteoporosis and obesity in later life. This suggests that calcium nutrition of the neonate may be more important to lifelong bone health, due to its programming effects on mesenchymal stem cells. Health professionals may want to think about osteoporosis not as a disease of the elderly, but as a pediatric disease with later onset. The big message is that calcium nutrition, or mineral nutrition as a whole, needs to be a priority from day one.
North Carolina State University, May 2010