is lowered. However, this rise is not sufficient to offset the loss in absorbed calcium that occurs as a result of the lower intake of calcium—however modest that decrease may be—and thus net calcium absorption is reduced.
Fractional calcium absorption varies during critical periods of life. In infancy, it is high at approximately 60 percent, although the range is large (Fomon and Nelson, 1993; Abrams et al., 1997). Calcium absorption in newborns is largely passive and facilitated by the lactose content of breast milk (Kocian et al., 1973; Kobayashi et al., 1975). As the neonate ages, passive absorption declines and calcitriol-stimulated active intestinal calcium absorption becomes more important (Ghishan et al., 1980; Halloran and DeLuca, 1980; Ghishan et al., 1984).
A recent preliminary report on breast-fed infants in the first 2 months of life (Hicks et al., 2010) reported calcium absorption of approximately 33.7 ± 2.0 mg/100 kcal. In an earlier study using stable isotopes (Abrams et al., 1997), calcium absorption was measured in 14 breast milk–fed infants who were 5 through 7 months of age at the time of the study. Mean absorption was 61 ± 23 percent of intake when approximately 80 percent of the calcium intake was from human milk (IOM, 1997). There was no significant relationship between calcium intake from solid foods and the fractional calcium absorption from human milk. This finding suggests that calcium from solid foods does not negatively affect the bioavailability of calcium from human milk (IOM, 1997). Using measured urinary calcium and estimates of endogenous excretion, net retention of calcium was calculated to be 68 ± 38 mg/day for those infants. Abrams (2010) concluded that in infancy, based on calcium intakes that vary from as low as 200 mg/day in exclusively breast-fed infants in the early months of life to 900 mg/day in older formula-fed infants receiving some solids, calcium absorption depends primarily on the level of intake. The author reported that the absorption fraction can range from somewhat above 60 percent with lower intakes to about 30 percent with higher intakes. As the infant transitions into childhood, fractional calcium absorption declines, only to rise again in early puberty, a time when modeling of the skeleton is maximal. Abrams and Stuff (1994) found fractional absorption in white girls with a mean calcium intake of about 931 mg/day to average 28 percent before puberty, 34 percent during early puberty (the age of the growth spurt), and 25 percent 2 years after early puberty. Fractional absorption remains about 25 percent in young adults. In 155 healthy men and women between 20 and 75 years of age, mean calcium absorption was 24.9 ± 12.4 percent of total intake (Hunt and Johnson, 2007). During pregnancy, calcium absorption doubles (Kovacs and Kronenberg, 1997; Kovacs, 2001). Metabolic status also influences calcium absorption such that severe obesity is associated with higher calcium absorption and dieting reduces the fractional calcium absorption by 5 percent (Cifuentes et al., 2002; Riedt et al., 2006).