Vitamin D, Calcium, and Bone Health

Vitamin D allows your body to absorb calcium. Calcium is necessary for building strong and healthy bones. Without enough vitamin D and calcium, bones may not form properly in childhood and can lose mass, become weak. Good  sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt); calcium-fortified products (foods and beverages with added calcium), fish with bones and green, leafy vegetables.

Why bone health is important?

Bone is a living tissue that is constantly breaking down and being replaced. Throughout life, our body balances the loss of bone with the creation of new born. We reach our highest bone mass at about age 25.

Bone loss can cause osteopenia (low bone mass) and then osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and are more likely to break (fracture). Fractures can cause serious health problems, including disability and premature death. Getting enough vitamin D and calcium is important in keeping our bones healthy and reducing our chances of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis.

Why are vitamin D and calcium important to bone health?

Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. Calcium is necessary for building strong, healthy bones. Without enough vitamin D and calcium, bones may not form properly in childhood and can lose mass, become weak, and break easily in adulthood. Even if you get enough calcium in your diet, your body will not absorb that calcium if you don’t get enough vitamin D.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in the body’s fat. People normally get vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, which triggers vitamin D production in the skin.

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. Good food sources are egg yolks and some types of fish such as salmon. Vitamin D is also available in nutritional supplements.

You  probably don’t get enough vitamin D if you:

  • Spend little time in the sun or use a strong sun block
  • Have very dark skin
  • Are over age 50, when the body is less able to make and use vitamin D efficiently
  • Have certain medical conditions such as diseases of the digestive system that interfere with fat and vitamin D absorption
  • Are very overweight, because vitamin D can get “trapped” in body fat and be less available for the needs of the body.

What is calcium?

Calcium is a mineral with many functions. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure. Calcium mainly comes from the foods you eat.

Good  sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt); calcium-fortified products (foods and beverages with added calcium); fish with bones; and green, leafy vegetables. Like vitamin D, calcium is also available in supplements.

You may need extra calcium if you:

  • Are a post-menopausal woman
  • Eat few or no dairy products
  • Have a digestive disease that interferes with nutrient absorption

Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin D and Calcium for Adults

Vitamin D                                         Calcium

Under age 50              400 to 800 International              at least 1,000 milligrams (mg)
Units        (IU)

Over age 50                 800 to 1 000 IU                      at least 1 200 mg

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