Like so many things – exercise, fiber, mammograms – calcium is something all women need, but don’t get nearly enough of.
Calcium helps build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, the breaking down and brittleness of the bones that happens as women age. Proper calcium intake isn’t just important to prevent bones from fracturing during a fall; it’s essential to keep women’s bodies able to perform everyday activities and to maintain quality of life.
Calcium can be obtained through the diet, through low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, and also through certain vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and some legumes and seafood. The National Academy of Sciences recommends 1,000 mg of calcium for adults between the ages of 19 and 50, and 1,200 mg for adults age 51 and older. If obtaining enough calcium through diet alone proves problematic, over-the-counter supplements are also available.
In July 2007, the National Osteoporosis Foundation issued new guidelines for calcium and vitamin D consumption:
National Osteoporosis Foundation’s Updated Recommendations for Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
In recent years, calcium and vitamin D deficiency have been the topics of significant research and professional debate. Based on substantial research findings on consensus among the leading experts on this topic, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) is updating its recommendations for daily adequate calcium and vitamin D intake to the following amounts:
According to NOF recommendations, adults under age 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and adults age 50 and over need 1,200 mg of calcium daily.
According to NOF recommendations, adults under age 50 need 400-800 IU of vitamin D3 daily, and adults age 50 and older need 800 – 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. Vitamin D3 is the form of vitamin D that best supports bone health. It is also called cholecalciferol. Vitamin D can also be obtained from fortified milk, egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver and supplements.
Getting the daily recommended amount of calcium, whether through diet, supplements, or combination, is essential to maintaining bone strength and can play a vital role in preventing osteoporosis-related fractures.
Vitamin D plays a major role in calcium absorption and bone health. Vitamin D3 is manufactured in the skin following direct exposure to sunlight; however, there are many different factors that affect a person’s ability to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
NOF revised its recommendations after careful consideration and review of a growing body of evidence that calcium and vitamin D deficiency is widespread throughout the world as well as in the U.S., particularly in adults 50 and older.
NOF will be working in the coming months to update its resources and materials. Click here for additional information on calcium and vitamin D.
Dawson-Hughes B, Heaney RP, Holick M, Lips P, Meunier P, Vieth R.
2005 Estimates of optimal vitamin D status. Osteoporosis Int 16: 713-716.
Additional information on calcium and its importance for women:
American Heart Association
About.com – general information
National Osteoporosis Foundation