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Higher calcium intake may reduce healthcare costs

November 23, 2012

A new European study suggests that increased consumption of calcium in dairy foods is related to healthcare cost savings by reducing the risk of osteoporotic fractures in the population aged over 50.

In the study, a new analytical model linking nutrition, fracture risk and health economics was used to mea-sure the health-economic impact of dairy food in the Netherlands, France and Sweden, countries whose populations have varying dairy consumption levels (1). The researchers calculated the number of disability-adjusted life years lost due to hip fractures associated with low nutritional calcium intake and the number of hip fractures that could potentially be prevented each year by additional dairy product intake. The analysis showed that benefits were highest in France with 2023 prevented hip fractures, followed by Sweden (455) and the Netherlands (132). This was translated into substantial health cost savings of approximately 129 million, 34 million and 6 million Euros in these countries, respectively.

The researchers noted that the study underestimated the potential cost savings of increased dietary calcium in that it relied on existing figures for the senior population and did not take into account the long-term benefits for the younger generation. Adequate nutritional intake of micronutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, as well as regular exercise during childhood and adolescence (necessary for the development of peak bone mass) may contribute to bone strength and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life.

Low dietary intake of calcium has been associated with decreased bone density and increased risk of osteo-porosis, a disease where bone becomes less dense and prone to fracture. Fractures are a costly public health burden, resulting in increased mortality, disability, pain and loss of health-related quality of life. In terms of health-economic burden, hip fractures in particular result in huge hospitalization expenses, rehabilitation, and long-term nursing care. Calcium is contained in different types of foods. However around 60 to 70% of daily calcium intake in Western countries is derived from dairy products.

References

  1. Lötters F. J. B. et al. Dairy foods and osteoporosis: an example of assessing the health-economic impact of food products. Osteoporosis International. Published online November 2012.