Women with low bone density after menopause can slow or prevent osteoporosis by a combination of exercise and calcium supplementation to an acceptable degree without the side effects of hormone replacement therapy.
So concluded a double blind study of 120 postmenopausal women in Western Australia comparing an exercise calcium supplementation regimen with one combining exercise and hormone replacement therapy and another using exercise alone.
Bone loss with the calcium group was one fifth that of the exercise only group (.5 per cent a year compared to 2.7 per year). This was not as good as the oestrogen group, which actually increased bone density (2.7 per cent per year). Nevertheless, any increase in bone density in the HRT group reached a plateau after 18 months.
Furthermore, breast tenderness occurred in nearly 50 per cent of the women in the oestrogen group, compared to 20 per cent in the calcium group, and 52 per cent of the HRT group complained of vaginal bleeding, compared to 11 per cent in the calcium group.
"It may be appropriate to advise women with intermediate bone density values to adopt the exercise and calcium regimen and to reserve oestrogen for women with low bone density," concluded the researchers.