Background and purpose: It has been proposed that high dietary sodium intake, resulting in a sodium-mediated increase in renal calcium excretion, is a risk factor for osteoporosis. To evaluate the relationship between dietary sodium intake and bone mineral density (BMD), a prospective study of the Rancho Bernardo cohort was performed.
Method: A 24-hour diet recall was done for the period 1973 through 1975; follow-up bone mineral density of the ultradistal radius, midradius, total hip, and spine was measured between 1988 and 1991. Covariates were ascertained by self-report and examination at baseline. Multivariable analysis of the sodium-BMD association was performed using gender and menopause-specific linear regressions.
Results: All subjects were white. At the bone evaluation, there were 258 women (average age 73.3 years) and 169 men (average age 72.4 years). In both men and women, higher levels of sodium intake were strongly associated with higher levels of calcium intake and total calories. Body mass index increased with sodium quartile in women, while a modest negative association was seen in men. In women, after age adjustment, positive associations between dietary sodium and bone density were found at the ultradistal radius (beta = 0.01, P = 0.03) and the total hip (beta = 0.019, P = 0.02). BMD increased by 0.01 to 0.02 g/cm2 per gram increase in sodium ingested. After adjustment for estrogen use, body mass, dietary calcium, alcohol, and total calories, these effects were no longer significant. Similar patterns were seen in pre- and postmenopausal women. In men, age and multivariate-adjusted BMD increased with higher sodium intake at the ultradistal radius only (beta = 0.013, P = 0.05). Stratification by gender-specific median calcium level did not significantly effect the results.
Conclusions: After control for confounders, a small, statistically significant protective effect of sodium was found at the ultradistal radius in men only. At other sites in women and men, no effect of sodium on BMD was apparent in the multivariable models. These results do not support a detrimental effect of dietary sodium on bone mineral density. Rather, the findings suggest that sodium intake, in the range measured, is not a major osteoporosis risk factor.