"We found that people who take just dietary calcium, or a combination of dietary calcium with supplements, have better bone density than those who take supplements alone," said Dr. Reina Armamento-Villareal of the Washington University School of Medicine. "So we think dietary sources are better than supplemental sources by themselves."
In the study, women were split into three groups: one got calcium from supplements only; another got it from food only; and a third got calcium from both supplements and food.
Dietary calcium appears to be optimally absorbed by the body, but Armamento-Villareal warned that the study didn't reflect calcium intake patterns over a lifetime, so some uncertainties about the long-term differences between dietary and supplemental calcium remain.
The findings are being presented this week at the International Osteoporosis Foundation World Congress on Osteoporosis in Toronto.