A new study published in PLoS ONE has found that inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D can significantly affect patients’ risk of osteoporosis. The study emphasized the population below the poverty line, for whom food insecurities can make vitamin and mineral intake even more challenging.

Many factors contribute to osteoporosis, including age, gender, and dietary intake. The authors noted that poverty can be a major barrier to routinely acquire adequate nutrient intake. In an effort to understand these intersecting concerns, the authors examined the relationship between markers of poverty with calcium and vitamin D intake and osteoporosis in Americans 50 years of age and older.

According to a press release, it is estimated that 10.2 million Americans aged 50 years and older suffer from osteoporosis, 80% of whom are women. Additionally, an estimated 44% of the population has osteopenia, a bone condition that often leads to osteoporosis. More than 2 million fractures occur annually as a result of osteoporosis, leading to more than $19 billion in health care costs.

“This study continues to demonstrate how prevalent nutrient deficiency is among the US population, and even more so, among lower income individuals and those with food insecurities,” said Susan Hazels Mitmesser, PhD, vice president of science and technology at Pharmavite, in a statement. “Yet, we know that nutrient adequacy is imperative in supporting overall health and wellness, including immune health, at a time when that is heavy on everyone’s mind.”

The investigators found that 25% of older Americans live below the poverty line, 68% of whom have inadequate calcium intake and 46% of whom have inadequate vitamin D intake. They also noted that women over the age of 50 have consistently inadequate calcium intake regardless of economic status. Furthermore, with respect to osteoporosis risk, the study authors found that inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D affects poverty-stricken men more than women. Finally, the researchers noted that non-Hispanic Black men with a low income have a 2 times greater risk for developing osteoporosis.

“Improving the consumption of nutrient-rich and fortified foods among individuals that live in poverty can help to decrease their chances of developing osteoporosis,” Mitmesser said in a press release. “Additionally, dietary supplements can play a critical role in helping any underserved population meet their nutrition needs—including making supplements readily available through programs like (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]), for example.”

Mitmesser added that according to the research, participants with SNAP benefits have greater access to food and fewer nutrient inadequacies.

Calcium and vitamin D nutrient deficiencies lead to higher risk for osteoporosis [news release]. Email; July 28, 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020.