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How Much Calcium is Best?

Calcium is an essential nutrient for achieving peak bone mass and for modifying the loss of bone associated with aging. Most Americans have an inadequate daily intake of calcium. Optimum calcium intake can be through diet, calcium-fortified foods, calcium supplements, or a combination of these. In light of recent research on calcium intake and its effects on bone mass and prevention of osteoporosis, the National Osteoporosis Foundation has developed the following recommendations, published in 1998:

  • All adults should have a calcium intake of at least 1200 mg per day, including supplements if necessary.
  • Since most adults have a diet with less than 600 mg calcium per day, supplements are often required.
  • Individuals at risk for vitamin D deficiency should have 400 – 800 I. U. vitamin D per day.
  • Anyone over the age of 65, anyone who is never exposed to the sun, anyone with malnutrition, and anyone with chronic intestinal problems may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. A typical multivitamin tablet contains 400 I.U. vitamin D.

Remember, for calcium to help with good bone health, it must be absorbed from the intestinal tract, circulate through the blood stream, and be deposited in bone. It is not enough to just take in enough calcium every day – you must also have a functioning intestinal tract and an adequate amount of vitamin D. People with intestinal diseases which impair the absorption of certain nutrients, those with problems with vitamin D deficiency, and those taking medications which effect the metabolism of calcium or vitamin D, may have special needs. Ask your doctor for more information.

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