Nutrition and Fitness Matters – Calcium Confusion

If you’ve been listening to the news, there’s a good chance you may be calcium confused.

There’s confusion about who needs calcium, how much they need, and how they should get it.

Here’s what you heard- New recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends against calcium and vitamin D supplements for maintaining bone health – for preventing fractures- – but only for one subset of women- -postmenopausal women that are healthy and those that are completely asymptomatic. On the other hand, the task force has previously recommended vitamin D supplements for at risk adults age 65 and older to prevent falls. It also recommends screening for osteoporosis in women age 65 and older and in younger women with risk factors.

Ok- so no calcium and vitamin D supplements for healthy asymptomatic postmenopausal women.

Healthy and asymptomatic are the buzz words because these new recommendations DON’T apply to women who have osteoporosis. ….to patients that are Vitamin D deficient. They also don’t apply to women who have already had a fracture.

Why did the task force advise against supplements? Because of the risks….Calcium supplements have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and to kidney stones.

Understand that both calcium and vitamin D are important for healthy bones. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed available evidence – more than 1000 studies- in its report released on November 30, 2010. This blue ribbon panel confirmed the importance of calcium and vitamin D in bone health. However, too much of a good thing is not necessarily better, may be harmful, and can have adverse effects like kidney stones. That’s why the IOM set both recommended daily allowances and upper limits, and they vary according to age and gender.

IOM Calcium Recommendations

Adolescents age 9 through 18 need the most: 1300 mg of calcium per day. (This is a big concern because adolescent girls often don’t get enough of it.

For both men and women age 19 through 50, the recommended amount is 1000 mg.
Bump that up to 1200 mg daily for women starting at age 51 and for men starting at age 71.
The upper daily limit for calcium: no more than 2000 mg.

IOM Vitamin D Recommendations

For vitamin D, the IOM panel also says that blood levels of vitamin D sufficient for bone health is generally attainable without adding supplements. Still, they set recommended dietary Vitamin D at 600 IU per day for everyone through age 70, and at 800 IU for adult age 71 and older, with an upper level intake at 4000 IU per day.

Calcium Sources

How you get your calcium also matters. From your diet is safest and best.
Start with dairy.

If the goal is 1000 mg calcium daily and you take in 3 servings of dairy and soy, you’re almost there:
For example: one 8 ounce cup of milk or low fat yogurt: 300 mg
An ounce of cheddar or mozzarella cheese: 200 mg
Or add calcium fortified soy milk – one cup of that has 400 mg

You can also get calcium from vegetables like broccoli, arugula, chard, and kale.
Figs and calcium fortified orange juice are also packed with calcium.
Don’t forget nuts: sesame seeds- one ounce has 280 mg of calcium- —an ounce of almonds has 80.
Or turn to one of my grandmothers favorite remedies- –Blackstrap molasses (one tbsp contains 135 mg calcium.

Weight bearing exercise for bone health

And since we are talking about bone health, exercise is also important. Go to the gym: weights and weight bearing exercise help stimulate new bone formation.