Monday, January 24, 2011

Do you need calcium or vitamin D supplements?

By David Burton
University Extension

In recent years there has been lots of information out about the benefits of vitamin D and calcium for promoting bone health.

“At the time, it was thought that many people were deficient and recommendations were made to increase vitamin D intake,” said Tammy Roberts, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

The Canadian and United States governments asked Institute of Medicine (IOM) to assess the data and make a recommendation for amounts needed for the average citizen.

For calcium, the IOM recommends 700 milligrams per day for children ages 1-3; 1,000 milligrams for children 4 through 8 and no more than 1,300 milligrams per day for youth ages 9 through 18. Most adults through age 50 and men until age 71 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium.

After age 51 for women and men over the age of 71 need no more than 1,200 milligrams per day.
“This is very similar to the prior recommendations for calcium,” said Roberts.

The vitamin D recommendation for everyone in the U.S. and Canada is 600 International Units or IUs per day. People over the age of 71 may need as much as 800 IUs per day.

“The body is able to synthesize its own vitamin D after sun exposure but that varies greatly from person to person and is impacted by sunscreen use. These recommendations were made to meet needs for people who have limited sun exposure,” said Roberts.

Many American adults have been taking supplements of 2,000 or more IUs of vitamin D per day.

The Institute of Medicine has established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin D for adults at 4,000 IUs per day.

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is the highest average daily intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population.

“For vitamin D, the new recommendation does represent an increase over previous recommendations,” said Roberts.

The 1997 recommendation for the general population was 200 IUs. For adults over the age of 50, 400 IUs were recommended; adults over the age of 70, 600 IUs.

“Calcium helps to build bones and to keep them strong. It helps your muscles contract and your heart beat, plays a role in normal nerve functioning and helps your blood clot. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and helps deposit them in bones and teeth.

Vitamin D also helps regulate cell growth and plays a role in immunity,” said Roberts.

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