Calcium and Vitamin D

Category: Miscellaneous Articles Published on Wednesday, 02 December 2015 Written by Yong Tsai, MD

There are two basic approaches to the prevention of osteoporosis. The first is to build as much bone as possible when you are young. And the second is to prevent bone loss as a mature adult. This can be done with the help of calcium and vitamin D.

Bones are formed by the production of soft protein, mostly collagen, which hardens upon the deposit of a mineral called calcium phosphate. To keep bones healthy and to prevent osteoporosis, adult under 50 need 1000 mg of calcium daily, and adult 50 and over need 1200 mg of calcium daily.

Calcium can be found in a variety of natural forms such as in milk and other dairy products. The average American diet, without dairy products, contains only about 500 mg of calcium. For example, a cup of milk contains 300 mg of calcium, a cup of yogurt 415 mg and one ounce of cheddar cheese 200 mg. Meat, vegetables, fruit and grains contain only small amounts of calcium.

Many calcium supplements are in different doses and different forms: carbonate, phosphate, and citrate. The type of calcium you chose may have different directions. Calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate supplements should be taken with food to ensure proper absorption, while calcium citrate should be taken on an empty stomach. Therefore, when you carefully read the label to determine the exact amount of actual calcium they contain and how to take them.

Most individuals tolerate calcium supplements very well. However, some people develop constipation, intestinal gas or kidney stones. You should drink a full glass of water when taking calcium supplements and take smaller doses two or three times a day. This will improve its absorption and reduce your chance of constipation.

Vitamin D, often called the sunshine vitamin, is produced by our body’s cholesterol when we are exposed to at least fifteen minutes of direct sunlight. Vitamin D helps our bones stay strong by increasing the absorption of calcium in our intestine. Unfortunately, only a few foods contain natural vitamin D: fortified milk, liver, fish, and egg yolks.

The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) for adult under age 50 and 600-800 IU for age 50 and older because aged skin loses some of its ability to make vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is also essential for our immunity. Patients with autoimmune disease such as lupus need even higher dose vitamin D.

If you can, drink enough milk or other dairy products for their calcium and get at least fifteen minutes of sun a day for vitamin D. If not, take calcium and vitamin D supplements, the right way and right amount. It’ll do your body good!

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