New dietary levels set for calcium, vitamin D
Scientific evidence indicates that calcium and vitamin D play key roles in bone health.
Yet, over the past 10 years, the public has heard conflicting messages about other benefits of these nutrients and also how much calcium and vitamin D they need to be healthy.
Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist, said in the past the Dietary Reference Intakes values for calcium and vitamin D were Adequate Intakes. Now the recommendations are Recommended Daily Allowances. The new recommendations cannot be directly compared to past recommendations because they are a different type of value.
According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, most Americans and Canadians up to age 70 need no more than 600 international units of vitamin D to maintain health and those 71 and older may need as much as 800 IUs. The upper limit for adults should not exceed 4,000 IUs of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is often known as the sunshine vitamin because the body can make vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. The amount of vitamin D the body makes can vary with age, amount of sunlight exposure on the skin, geographic location, season of the year and use of sunscreen.
Food sources of vitamin D include milk and milk products fortified with vitamin D, egg yolk, liver, butter, salmon, sardines and herring. Most ready-to-eat cereals are also fortified with vitamin D.
"The science on calcium's role in bone health shows that 700 milligrams per day meets the needs of most children ages 1 to 3 and 1,000 milligrams for those 4 to 8 years of age," Hermann said. "Adolescents ages 9 through 18 require no more than 1,300 milligrams per day and most all adults ages 19 to 50 and men until age 71, 1,000 milligrams should cover their needs. Women starting at age 51 and men and women age 71 and older don't need more than 1,200 milligrams per day. The upper limit for adults is 2,500 milligrams of calcium."
National surveys in both the US and Canada indicate most people receive enough calcium, with the exception of girls ages 9-19. In contrast, the survey indicates postmenopausal women taking supplements may be getting too much calcium, thereby increasing their risk for kidney stones.
Hermann said in addition to dairy products, foods that can help people increase their daily calcium intake include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and other leafy green vegetables. These are also high in vitamin C, which improves calcium absorption.