Do I Need Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements?

It is often promoted in the media that we need calcium and vitamin D supplements. Our skeleton contains the vast majority of the body’s calcium and vitamin D is required to facilitate absorption of dietary calcium. Calcium cannot be created by the body; it can only be obtained through dietary sources. Vitamin D is obtained through sun exposure, food and supplements.

How Much Calcium?

The Institute of Medicine recommends a dietary allowance of calcium intake according to age.

Teenagers need the most at 1300 mg per day. Adults only need 800 mg per day, but calcium needs increase again after age 50 for women and age 70 for men. If you consume less than the recommended dietary allowance, supplementation may be recommended by your doctor.

How Much Vitamin D?

Infants need a dietary allowance of 400 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D, while children through adults of age 69 need 600 IU per day. Once a person reaches 70 years old, recommendations increase to 800 IU per day. Supplements may contain vitamin D2 or D3. Vitamin D3 is more effective at maintaining blood calcium levels, the primary physiological function of vitamin D.

Dietary Consumption of Calcium & Vitamin D

Calcium is readily available in certain foods and calcium-fortified foods. Normal dietary sources include dairy products, small fish and some vegetables. Sardines can be a good source of calcium, as well as spinach. Recently, calcium-fortified foods have become very popular. For example, calcium has been added to orange juice, cereal, margarine, bread, water and frozen waffles.

Vitamin D is a bit harder to find in your diet. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Fortification is often present in orange juice, yogurt, milk and cereal. The best way to activate vitamin D in your body is to expose your skin to sunlight. The ultra-violet light activates vitamin D3 in your skin, where it’s carried to the liver to assist in regulation of blood calcium.

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