Boneing Up on Calcium

Author: Mary K. Sawyer Morse, PH.D, RD

Boneing Up on Calcium By Consultant, Mary K.
Sawyer Morse, PH.D, RD.

The pictures are frightening. Porous, fragile bones. Broken hips
and hunched backs. A lack of calcium may result in the bone
thinning disease osteoporosis, which affects older American men
and women. Osteoporosis is a condition of gradually weakening
brittle bones. As bones lose calcium and other minerals, they
become more fragile and porous. Osteoporosis is the cause of
more than 1.5 million bone fractures each year. These fractures
often lead to permanent changes in lifestyle. Calcium is a key
ingredient in maintaining good bone health and slowing bone loss
later in life.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It plays two
important roles. First, it is an essential part of bone
structure. Second, bone calcium serves as a reservoir that
releases calcium to the body fluids when there is a drop in
blood calcium concentration. Calcium in body fluids plays
several important roles including maintaining normal blood
pressure and nerve transmission.

The establishment of recommended intakes for calcium is
difficult because absorption varies not only with age, but also
with a person's vitamin D status, the calcium content of the
diet, and calcium binders in foods. In general, calcium
recommendations are high for young people and for those over age
51 because calcium absorption declines with age.

The current recommendations are: * Adolescents 1,300 milligrams
per day (the equivalent of 4 glasses of milk) * Women and men
(19-50) 1,000 milligrams per day * Women and men (51 years and
older) 1,200 milligrams per day

To get enough calcium, it is recommended that you eat at least
three servings of calcium-rich foods daily. Dairy foods provide
the greatest amount of calcium and the nutrients that help with
its absorption. Calcium fortified foods like fruit juice,
breads, cereals, and breakfast bars can also help meet calcium

The final option is a calcium supplement. For best absorption
choose products containing calcium citrate or calcium caltrate.
Avoid calcium supplements with dolomite or bone meal. They may
contain very small amounts of lead and other metals. In
addition, avoid calcium-containing antacids that contain
aluminum and magnesium hydroxide, which cause calcium loss.
Remember to drink plenty of fluids with calcium supplements to
avoid constipation.

Consider however before reaching for that supplement that the
American Society for Bone and Mineral Research recommends foods
as a source of calcium in preference to a supplement.

In addition to calcium intake, weight-bearing exercise like
walking, jogging and ballroom dancing helps keeps bones dense.
No matter what your age, making choices to keep your bones
healthy is the right decision.

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About the author:
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