Calcium and vitamin D work together to protect your bones and are essential for normal bone and tooth development. Calcium helps to build and keep your bones strong, while vitamin D helps to properly absorb the calcium. Calcium is needed for blood clotting, transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contractions and cell metabolism. Although these vitamins and minerals can be taken in the form of a supplement, they are also readily available in many food sources.
Foods containing the highest level of calcium include dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. However, products such as almonds, lentils, some leafy greens, beans, canned salmon, seeds, and chickpeas also contain calcium. Vitamin D food sources include fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, and fortified products such as cereals, soymilk and orange juice. Vitamin D can also be made when your skin is exposed to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet B rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, which provides energy for vitamin D synthesis.
Having adequate calcium and vitamin D is essential to prevent osteoporosis, which is very common as people start to age. Osteoporosis causes the bones to become brittle and weak. If a person develops osteoporosis, new bone creation doesn’t keep up with old bone removal. Osteoporosis can lead to limited mobility and more susceptibility to breaks, fractures, and falls. Osteomalacia is another adult deficiency disease resulting from low vitamin D intake. This disease occurs when the bones begin to soften, which can also lead to fractures or falls. If children are deficient in vitamin D, they can develop a disease called Rickets. Rickets is a vitamin D deficiency disease that causes an enlarged head, joints, and ribcage, as well as deformed pelvis and bowed legs.
Along with adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, exercise is also an important factor in supporting bone health. Exercise has been shown to minimize the loss of bone mineral density. Furthermore, these diseases can be prevented early on by exercising daily and taking in the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D.
Recommendations of Calcium and Vitamin D for each age group and gender
- Children 1-3 years old: 700 mg
- Children 4-8 years old: 1,000 mg
- Children 9-18 years old: 1,300 mg
- Adults 19-50: 1,000 mg
- Women 51 to 70: 1,200 mg
- Men 51 to 70: 1,000 mg
- Women and men 71 and over: 1,200 mg
- Age 1-70: 600 IU
- Age 71 and older: 800 IU