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During the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen articles on the web, in newspapers and on the television news about new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for calcium and vitamin D.
They are recommending against daily supplementation with 400 IU or less of vitamin D3 and 1,000 mg of calcium carbonate for healthy older women, stating that it doesn’t work to prevent bone fractures in post-menopausal women. However, they say that the data is insignificant to make recommendations for larger doses of these supplements or for younger women or men.
These new recommendations go against what we’ve all thought of as true. To protect bone health, for years health professionals have encouraged us to eat calcium foods, get vitamin D through exposure to sunshine and possibly take a calcium and vitamin D supplement. No wonder people are confused and asking questions about the necessity or safety of calcium and vitamin D supplements.
As with any study or major nutrition recommendations for the general public, keep in mind that there is always more to learn and new studies are always out there. My recommendation is to keep reading, keep learning and talk with your health professional before making any major changes to your current calcium or vitamin D regiment.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) responded to these new recommendations by reminding us to protect our bones. They are still saying we all should aim to get the recommended daily amount of calcium from food first and then supplement any shortfall.
NOF recommends that women age 50 and younger get 1,000 mg of calcium from all sources daily and that women age 50 and older get 1,200 mg For men, NOF recommends 1,000 mg of calcium daily for age 70 and younger and 1,200 mg for men age 71 and older. For adults age 50 and younger, NOF recommends 400-800 IU of vitamin D and 800-1,000 IU for adults age 50 and older.
They also recommend maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercising and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.
Overall, everyone is in agreement that the best way to get calcium is from food sources. Dairy products are high in calcium, thus the push to drink milk or eat other dairy products, but not everyone likes milk or can drink it. If you’re not a milk person, there are some other food sources of this important mineral. Some may surprise you.
Some green vegetables naturally have calcium in them. One cup of broccoli contains about 75 milligrams of calcium. Other vegetables sources are collards and turnip greens. There are 226 mg of calcium in a cup of cooked collards and 197 mg in a similar amount of cooked turnip greens.
For the record, an eight-ounce glass of two-percent milk has about 297 mg of calcium. So you’d have to eat about four cups of broccoli or one and one-half cups of greens to get the same amount of calcium as in a glass of milk.
Some other sources of calcium include seeds and nuts. One ounce (about one-quarter cup) of almonds has 75 milligrams of calcium. The same amount of sesame and sunflower seeds has 37 mg and 33 mg, respectively.
There are also calcium-fortified foods and calcium supplements that are helpful for people who are unable to get enough calcium in their diets. Some fortified foods include: orange juice, breakfast foods, soymilk, cereals, snacks and breads.
For more information on calcium, vitamin D and osteoporosis, we have two classes coming up in Brunswick County. These classes will provide an overview of osteoporosis risk factors, prevention tips, and diagnosis and nutrition tips. Both are free of charge and open to the public. Pre-registration is requested.
On Friday, March 22, along with Sarah Barnwell, FCS agent with the NC Cooperative Extension, I’ll be teaching “Osteoporosis: What you need to know” at 12:30 p.m. at the Barbee Library, 8200 East Oak Island Drive on Oak Island. For more details and to register, contact the library at (910) 278-4188.
On April 9, in cooperation with the Dinah E. Gore Fitness and Aquatic Center at Brunswick Community College, we’ll be offering another class on “Living with Osteoporosis” at 1 p.m. This will be a slightly different class, as we will be welcoming pharmacist Kim Thrasher to help participants understand more about supplements and related pharmaceuticals. For more information or to register, contact the fitness center at (910) 846-2348.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at NC Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, at 253-2610.