By interfering with calcium availability, low levels of stomach acid may lead to weaker bones, making them more prone to fractures, according to a report in the journal Nature Medicine. Use of calcium supplements can prevent this problem, though.
One of the most common causes of reduced stomach acid is taking heartburn medications, such as Prilosec and Prevacid.
Dr. Michael Amling, from University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, and colleagues used mice with various bone problems to investigate the impact of stomach acid levels on calcium levels in the blood and on bone mass.
The results showed that a reduction in the stomach's ability to produce acid disrupted calcium metabolism and caused thinning of the bones, also known as osteoporosis. However, treating the mice with calcium supplements prevented the osteoporosis.
Understanding the link between stomach acidification, calcium metabolism, and bone health is of critical importance, Amling told Reuters Health.
The broad clinical implementation of these insights, he added, is that bone loss and fractures may be easily prevented in thousands of patients at little cost with the use of calcium supplements.
He added that further studies are planned that will determine which calcium supplements work best for preventing bone loss in patients with reduced stomach acid.