Randomized, placebo-controlled, calcium supplementation study in pregnant Gambian women: effects on breast-milk calcium concentrations and infant birth weight, growth, and bone mineral accretion in the first year of life

Landing M A Jarjou, Ann Prentice, Yankuba Sawo, M Ann Laskey, Janet Bennett, Gail R Goldberg, Tim J Cole
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006, 83 (3): 657-66

BACKGROUND: Growth and bone mineral accretion in Gambian infants are poorer than those in Western populations. The calcium intake of Gambian women is low, typically 300-400 mg Ca/d, and they have low breast-milk calcium concentrations, which result in low calcium intakes for their breastfed infants. A low maternal calcium supply in pregnancy may limit fetal mineral accretion and breast-milk calcium concentrations and thereby affect infant growth and bone mineral accretion.

OBJECTIVE: We investigated the effects of calcium supplementation in Gambian women during pregnancy on breast-milk calcium concentrations and infant birth weight, growth, and bone mineral accretion.

DESIGN: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled supplementation study was conducted in 125 Gambian women who received 1500 mg Ca/d (as calcium carbonate) or placebo from 20 wk of gestation until delivery. Infant birth weight and gestational age were recorded. Breast milk was collected, and infant anthropometric and bone measurements were performed at 2, 13, and 52 wk after delivery. Infant bone mineral status was assessed by using single-photon absorptiometry of the radius and whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

RESULTS: Compliance with the supplement was high. No significant differences were detected between the groups in breast-milk calcium concentration, infant birth weight, or growth or bone mineral status during the first year of life. A slower rate of increase in infant whole-body bone mineral content and bone area was found in the supplement group than in the placebo group (group x time interaction: P = 0.03 and 0.02, respectively).

CONCLUSION: Calcium supplementation of pregnant Gambian women had no significant benefit for breast-milk calcium concentrations or infant birth weight, growth, or bone mineral status in the first year of life.

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