Calcium, vitamin D keys to good health Print
by Andrea Holwegner | Aug 26, 2011
By Andrea Holwegner, For the Calgary Herald
August 24, 2011
The Hamilton family thought they were getting enough calcium and vitamin D in their diet, as they drank some milk daily, had cheese as part of several meals per week and occasionally snacked on yogurt.
But when 37-year-old Rob found out that he was vitamin D-deficient, he knew it was time to make sure he and his family were getting enough.
The Canadian Health Measures Survey found that approximately 10 per cent of Canadians have inadequate levels of vitamin D for bone health.
Considering the standards for levels of vitamin D used in this study were set in 1997, and current research suggests we probably need more, it is likely that even more Canadians will be classified as having vitamin D inadequacy in years to come.
The 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey found more than a third of children aged four to nine do not achieve the recommended two daily servings of milk or milk alternatives.
By age 30, more than two-thirds of Canadians do not attain the three daily servings of milk or milk alternatives recommended per day.
How much do I need each day?
You have likely heard that calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients for bone health. There’s a large amount of research currently underway examining calcium and vitamin D for other roles, such as in cancer prevention, immunity function and more.
The current recommended daily levels of calcium and vitamin D are as follows (with some researchers and organizations suggesting that vitamin D recommendations should be even higher):
Age: Vitamin D/Calcium
– Infants up to six months: 400 IU (10 mcg) */200 mg *
– Infants seven to 12 months: 400 IU (10 mcg) */260 mg *
– Children one to three years: 600 IU (15 mcg)/700 mg
– Children four to eight: 600 IU (15 mcg)/1,000 mg
– Children nine to 18: 600 IU (15 mcg)/1,300 mg
– Adults 19 to 50: 600 IU (15 mcg)/1,000 mg
– Adults 51 to 70: 600 IU (15 mcg)/men 1,000mg, women 1,200mg
– Adults older than 70: 800 IU (20 mcg)/1,200 mg
– Pregnancy and lactation, 14 to 18: 600 IU (15 mcg)/1,300 mg
– Pregnancy and lactation, 19 to 50: 600 IU (15 mcg)/1,000 mg
*Adequate intake rather than recommended dietary allowance.
— Source: The Institute of Medicine
Getting enough calcium
As a rough estimate, one cup (250 millilitres) of milk, one cup (250 mL) of fortified beverages (such as fortified soy/rice/almond/oat milk), three-quarters of a cup (175 mL) of yogurt, a latte made with one cup (250 mL) of milk, one-third of a cup (75 mL) of powdered milk added to a smoothie or 1.5 ounces of cheese will supply approximately 250 to 300 mg of calcium per day.
As an easy rule of thumb, anyone over the age of four selecting one of the above foods three times in a day would achieve their needs. If you don’t, be sure to take a calcium supplement.
Getting enough vitamin D
Although we synthesize vitamin D in the skin with sun exposure, this is an unreliable source. There are also only a few food sources that are rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, milk, eggs and tofu.
Health Canada suggests that everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 mcg (400 IU). Most Canadians would likely benefit from this recommendation regardless of age.
Choose an age-appropriate daily multivitamin, since most contain vitamin D and also consider a separate vitamin D supplement to be sure you are getting enough.
For a more detailed overview of calcium and vitamin D found in foods, visit Health Canada’s Canadian Nutrient File at healthcanada.gc.ca/cnfonline.
Andrea Holwegner, the chocoholic dietitian, owns Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc., offering nutrition counselling and speaking engagements. Visit healthstandnutrition.com or call 403-262-3466to subscribe to her free monthly ezine.
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