June 13, 2005 -- Now there's yet another reason for women to get plenty of
calcium and vitamin D. The bone-building nutrients may prevent PMS.
PMS -- premenstrual syndromePMS -- premenstrual syndrome -- is a collection of
symptoms that come between ovulation and a woman's menstrual period. Symptoms
include depression, irritability, fatigue, abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, and headaches. To qualify as PMS, the
symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with normal life activities.
There are various ways to treat PMS, but no way to prevent it. Now a strong
clue comes from University of Massachusetts researcher Elizabeth R.
Bertone-Johnson, ScD, and her Harvard University colleagues. The researchers
analyzed data collected over 10 years from nurses 27-44 years old participating
in a long-term health study -- including more than 1,000 women with PMS.
"We found women with high intakes of both calcium and vitamin D did have
significantly reduced PMS risk," Bertone-Johnson tells WebMD. "Those who ate
about four servings a day of low-fat dairy or yogurt or fortified orange juice
had a 40% lower risk of PMS than those who did not. That is about 1,200
milligrams of calcium or 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D each
The findings appear in the June 13 issue of Archives of Internal
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 IU. Recommendations for
calcium for adult women vary by age:
Women 19 to 50 years old need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily.
Women 51 and over need 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily.
Women badly need this much calcium and vitamin D, says gynecologist Stephen
Bashuk, MD, of Emory University.
"Women in the 18-30 age group at risk for PMS are in the prime of their bone
mineralization years," Bashuk tells WebMD. "Every woman of childbearing age
should be on calcium for her bones. Every women needs to be doing this to build
up bones so she has less chance of dangerous fractures in her later years."
The women in Bertone-Johnson's study were all nurses. Yet only one in five
was getting close to the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in her
diet. Few were taking calcium supplements, so the study does not specifically address
the issue of whether calcium and vitamin D supplements are needed. Yet Bashuk
says the study gives women yet another reason to make sure they get enough
"What this study says is that if you take an 18-year-old woman without PMS
-- who has a 20% lifetime chance of getting it -- if she takes her calcium she
has less chance of getting PMS," Bashuk says.
"Whether to take calcium is a no-brainer. And if you get a side benefit that
it may prevent PMS, that would be a wonderful thing. I certainly would
recommend if a woman has PMS, and doesn't take calcium or doesn't have a good
dairy intake, it is not an unreasonable thing for her to go on calcium
supplements and see if it helps."