The Importance of Vitamin D and Calcium
As I’ve gotten older and become more aware of health issues, a source of frequent confusion is my vitamin intake. I eat well – little to no processed food and lots of fruit and vegetables – but I worry that I’m still lacking vital nutrients, especially with the news surrounding the oft-mentioned vitamin D and calcium. In fact, the U.S. government commissioned the Institute of Medicine to complete a study to clarify the appropriate levels of each; the results of which came out late last year. Assuming minimal sun exposure (clearly no medical professional is comfortable recommending we get vitamin D from the sun’s rays as skin cancer is a major worry), the average adult should get at least 400IU/day but optimally 600IU/day of vitamin D and 800mg/day of calcium although this level increases for older women as bone density becomes an issue.
Above chart taken from the Institute of Medicine's website
So why are these vitamins so important? Aside from the well-known role both vitamin D and calcium play in maintaining strong bones, recent research indicates that a deficiency in the former may be linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Vitamin D Slideshow: Deficiency Symptoms, Foods, Tests, Benefits, and More. For example, according to WebMD in referring to breast cancer, “in one study, women deficient in vitamin D when they were diagnosed had a 94% greater chance of the cancer spreading”. On the same topic, there has been much buzz about the potential of vitamin D and calcium in reducing the risk of breast cancer. I went to the National Cancer Institute’s website and found that while randomized clinical trials of post-menopausal women who took large doses of both (upwards of 1,500mg/day of calcium and 1,100IU/day of vitamin D) versus a placebo for 4 years had a 60% lower overall incidence of cancer, the results were still inconclusive for a variety of reasons. Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention – National Cancer Institute. I’d imagine just on a very basic level that the dosage alone would be difficult to achieve.
Although the studies may not be completely clear, nobody is disputing the importance of both in regulating one’s health (by the way, the reason the two are often linked is because vitamin D allows your body to absorb calcium). So how do you increase your intake? Food should be the main source certainly as fortified milk (and orange juice in some cases), eggs, breakfast cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon all contain vitamin D. In fact, a 3 oz serving of salmon provides over 100% the daily recommended intake! Look to dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt for calcium although stick to the low-fat variety so your cholesterol doesn’t rise (it’s not easy to be healthy!) Supplements are another way to go. I take Viactiv chewables (I am such a baby when it comes to swallowing big pills) twice daily but most health food stores will have other options.
Above taken from WebMD slideshow on the importance of vitamin D
I hope you found this helpful. I’m now off to drink some of my daughter’s delicious strawberry milk
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