The effects of fatty acid chain length and quantity on the bioavailability of calcium

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Pettit, Patricia E.
Landis, William
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Thesis (M.S.)
Department of Home Economics
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The purpose of this study was to analyze the effect of fatty acid chain length and quantity on the bioavailability of calcium. Thirteen healthy subjects were randomly assigned to a series of 5 test meals containing varying types and levels of fat and calciumconsumed over a three week time period. The test meals included 10 grams MCT oil (MCT 10), 20 grams MCT oil (MCT 20), 10 grams beef fat (BT 10), 20 grams beef fat (BT 20), and calcium only (Ca). Calcium absorption was assessed using timed urine collections following a specified calcium load. Three day food records were obtained to assess typical nutrient intakes of the subjects coming into and during the study. MCT oil provided better absorption of the calcium supplement than did the beef tallow. A difference was also noted in the absorption of calcium based on the amount of fat consumed. A higher intake of MCT oil (10 g vs. 20 g) appeared to favor the absorption of calcium. Urine calcium excretion was significantly greater (p < .009) during the MCT oil treatments (MCT 10, MCT 20) compared to the beef fat treatments (BT 10, BT 20), suggesting reduced calcium absorption during the beef fat treatments. There were no differences in mean calcium excretion based on quantity of fat consumed ( 10 g vs. 20 g), nor any interaction between type of fat and amount. Tests for detecting differences between individual treatments indicated a significance difference (p < .05) in calcium excretion between MCT 20 and BT 10 treatments. Urine calcium excretion was corrected for body size using urine calcium/creatinine ratio (Ca/Cr). There was a significant time effect between the 0 - 2, 2 - 4 hour time periods (p < .005) and the various treatments for Ca/Cr. Though not significant, mean Ca/Cr was highest for the calcium treatment (0.42), compared to the MCT oil treatments (36, z of MCT 10 & MCT 20), and beef fat treatments (28, x of BT 10 & BT 20). The beef fat treatments significantly decreased the absorption of calcium compared to the MCT oil treatments. It appears that beef fat, when compared to the calcium only treatment, decreased calcium absorption.