Friday, September 07, 2007

Boning Up on Calcium

The Toronto Star reported recently what alot of us have already known for a long time - that both calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health, but it does have some useful information about the forms of calcium that are best absorbed by the body and the doses needed for vitamin D.

Here is an extract from the article:

In fact it's normal to start losing bone density after age 35. But she urged me to consider it a wake-up call to improve my eating habits and get serious about regular exercise. "Your bone mass may be low, but your bones still have structure so you can put lots of calcium in them," said Lhotsky, who likens bones to a bank, strengthened with deposits of calcium and vitamin D, and weakened by withdrawals such as smoking, or drinking more than three glasses of alcohol or caffeinated coffee a day.

According to my chart, eating 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day is possible on paper, at least. A typical day might include two cups of 1% milk (660 milligrams), a whole wheat English muffin (100 milligrams), 3/4 cup of fruit yogurt (250 milligrams), a half-cup of canned pink salmon with bones (175 milligrams), a cup of cooked broccoli (90 milligrams), an ounce of almonds (57 milligrams), an orange (50 milligrams) and five dried figs (135 milligrams).

Vitamin D is another story. Unless you love cod liver oil (1,382 IU per tablespoon) or eat lots of salmon and canned sardines, getting 800 to 1,000 IU a day from food is difficult. Yet this year's "miracle" vitamin is essential to help our bones and teeth absorb calcium.
"Without vitamin D," says Dr. Joe Schwarcz, "you can have all the calcium you want and it's not going into your bones." The University of McGill chemistry professor and co-author of Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal, adds that vitamins and minerals are better absorbed from food than from pills.

Calcium carbonate pills (some contain oyster shells) are the cheapest, though they may cause constipation and gas, notes Schwarcz. For best absorption, take them with meals or with a snack of at least 300 calories.

Calcium citrate pills are about three times more expensive, but can be taken any time of day and are readily absorbed without any annoying side effects. Calcium pills with magnesium also minimize constipation.

When buying supplements, look for the amount of "elemental" calcium inside. And don't buy the biggest pill you can find – Schwarcz says two 500-milligram doses of elemental calcium a day are much better absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream than one 1,000-milligram pill.

For extra insurance, choose a calcium or multi-vitamin pill with added vitamin D or buy a 30-gram (1 ounce) vial of drops containing 1,000 IU per drop. Another option is to forgo the sunscreen for 15 minutes on sunny summer days between 10 a.m. and noon when our skin absorbs vitamin D.

For more information about how to maintain bone health, read this article posted here.

Here is a link to The Star's complete article.

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