Calcium is the building block of healthy bones and is the nutrient most closely associated with reducing the risk of osteoporosis. But while a research has linked other dietary elements to better absorption of the mineral, consumer awareness of this added twist appears to be low.
The survey comes as the US FDA is considering amending its existing health claim on calcium and bone health to include vitamin D and exclude references to sex, race, and age since the benefits apply to both sexes at all ages and race categories.
Vitamin D has been found to facilitate calcium absorption in the intestine. GTC, which commissioned the survey from Opinion Research Corporation, says its NutraFlora prebiotic fiber has also been seen to "significantly increase calcium absorption".
Eighty-six per cent of the more than 1000 survey respondents ranked a woman's risk of an osteoporotic fracture as less than the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine cancer.
In fact, the risk is much greater than all three combined. According to the National Osteopososis Foundation, around 55 per cent of over 50s are at risk - that is, 44 m people. Of these, 10 m individuals are estimated to have the disease already and a further 34 m are estimated to have low bone mass.
What is more, the survey results were consistent with other study findings that around 90 per cent of girls aged 12 to 19 years - the peak time for building bone density - do not consume enough calcium. More than two-thirds of respondents, including those with children in their households, were unaware of this statistic.
Unless the matter is addressed, this may mean that osteoporosis rates are on course to rise further, as subsequent generations enter the at-risk years.
For GTC, the results have provided an interesting marketing angle for NutraFlora.
"These survey findings… underscore the opportunity Americans have to increase their overall health and well-being by learning more about bone health and the factors that influence it, including calcium absorption," said GTC scientific affairs manager Coni Francis.