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Boning Up on Calcium

Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body. It has numerous functions, including building bones and teeth, muscle contractions, secretion of hormones, blood clotting, maintenance of cell membranes and nerve transmission.

The average adult weight is approximately 2% calcium, most of which is found in the skeleton and teeth. Adequate intake of calcium is essential for maximizing bone density. If an individual falls short on calcium intake, the risk of osteoporosis, thinning of the bones, increases.

More than 10 million American have osteoporosis, 80% being women. The amount of calcium you need is all dependent upon your age. Individuals between 9-18 years of age need 1300 mg of calcium daily, 19-50 year olds need 1000 mg daily while those 51 years of age and older require 1200 mg daily.

It is important to remember that vitamin D-rich foods or supplements be consumed along with calcium as it improves its absorption. Not only can you obtain vitamin D from foods, your body will make it when your skin is exposed to sunlight. All you need is approximately 15 minutes most days. Some individuals, those who are lactose intolerant and vegans may need to take supplements to meet the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

If you are taking supplements of calcium, it is best to take in 500 mg doses or less for better absorption. Avoid calcium supplements that contain unrefined oyster shell, bone meal or dolomite as these ingredients contain toxic substances such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

If choosing to obtain vitamin D from a supplement, select vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is up to 3 times more absorbable than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). The recommended amount for children is 200 IU’s daily while adult need 400 IU’s. Be sure your supplements) has “USP” (U.S. Pharmacopeia) on the label which indicates it has met the voluntary standards for quality, purity and tablet disintegration of dissolution.

Main sources of calcium in the diet are milk, yogurt and cheese all of which contain vitamin D. Other sources include Chinese cabbage, kale, broccoli and fortified food such as fruit juices, tofu and breakfast cereals.

Make all effort, every day to include calcium-rich foods. If you are unable to meet the recommended amount through food choices, consider supplementation. Keeping bone and teeth strong along with calcium’s other vital functions, are very important in maintaining good health.

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