Benefits of Vitamin D and Calcium: Source and Disorders Caused by their Deficiency

Calcium and Vitamin D

Want to have healthy bones? Then make Vitamin D and calcium your best friends today. The right amount of these will go a long way in reducing the chances of you breaking a bone or developing the bone-weakening disease known as osteoporosis. This is a disorder of the bones that results in a progressive reduction in the mass and density of the bones. This results in the weakening and thinning of the bones making them prone to getting fractured. According to research, there are over 1.3 million occurrences of osteoporotic fractures in the United States every year. These primarily occur in the bones within the hip, spine (the vertebrae) and in the forearm, close to the wrist.

So, what are the benefits of Vitamin D and Calcium?

It is important to take a good nutrition to maintain healthy bones. The benefits include:

  • Calcium is crucial in reducing loss of bone weight and also the reduction of the risk of fracturing the bones surrounding the spinal cord (the vertebrae).
  • Enough consumption of calcium e.g. milk during the young age is essential in ensuring a higher mass and density of the bones during the older age. This is crucial in reducing the risk of developing fractures during adulthood.
  • Consumption of sufficient calcium is also beneficial in that it reduces cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • A Vitamin D and Calcium supplement also reduces chances of tooth loss in elderly people.
  • Vitamin D supplements are also essential in reducing the chances of a heart disease developing and also eliminate the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
  • Are you looking to lose some weight? Then some extra Vitamin D supplements in your diet will greatly boost your efforts.

Expert advice on consumption given by the Institute of Medicine advices that adults aged 19 to 70 years should consume up to 600 IU every day. Individuals above the age of 70 should consume up to 800 IU daily. The amount of calcium needed every day is dependent on an individual’s age and gender.

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Calcium
Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0–6 months* 200 mg 200 mg
7–12 months* 260 mg 260 mg
1–3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4–8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9–13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14–18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19–50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51–70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 1,200 mg

* Adequate Intake (AI)

Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

Having inadequate amounts of calcium from supplements and food will not produce any obvious symptoms in a short term. The amount of calcium circulated in the blood is very closely monitored. Medical problems and/or treatments such as surgical removal of internal organs like the stomach, renal failure and some medications like diuretics are the primary causes of hypocalcemia. The symptoms of hypocalcemia include:

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle cramps
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

If not treated, a deficiency of calcium could eventually be fatal. Long term damages of a deficiency in calcium are development of osteopenia, which could result in osteoporosis. This increases the risk of developing a bone fracture especially in elderly people. A deficiency in calcium could also result in rickets. However, this disease is more common due to a deficiency in Vitamin D.

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Calcium
Food Milligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 415 42
Mozzarella, part skim, 1.5 ounces 333 33
Sardines, canned in oil, with bones, 3 ounces 325 33
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 313–384 31–38
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 ounces 307 31
Milk, nonfat, 8 ounces** 299 30
Soymilk, calcium-fortified, 8 ounces 299 30
Milk, reduced-fat (2% milk fat), 8 ounces 293 29
Milk, buttermilk, lowfat, 8 ounces 284 28
Milk, whole (3.25% milk fat), 8 ounces 276 28
Orange juice, calcium-fortified, 6 ounces 261 26
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup*** 253 25
Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone, 3 ounces 181 18
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup 138 14
Tofu, soft, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup*** 138 14
Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup 100–1,000 10–100
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve, ½ cup 103 10
Turnip greens, fresh, boiled, ½ cup 99 10
Kale, raw, chopped, 1 cup 100 10
Kale, fresh, cooked, 1 cup 94 9
Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup 84 8
Chinese cabbage, bok choi, raw, shredded, 1 cup 74 7
Bread, white, 1 slice 73 7
Pudding, chocolate, ready to eat, refrigerated, 4 ounces 55 6
Tortilla, corn, ready-to-bake/fry, one 6″ diameter 46 5
Tortilla, flour, ready-to-bake/fry, one 6″ diameter 32 3
Sour cream, reduced fat, cultured, 2 tablespoons 31 3
Bread, whole-wheat, 1 slice 30 3
Broccoli, raw, ½ cup 21 2
Cheese, cream, regular, 1 tablespoon 14 1

* DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help consumers compare the nutrient contents among products within the context of a total daily diet. The DV for calcium is 1,000 mg for adults and children aged 4 years and older. Foods providing 20% of more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient, but foods providing lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Nutrient Databaseexternal link disclaimer Web site lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides comprehensive list of foods containing calcium arranged by nutrient content and by food name.
** Calcium content varies slightly by fat content; the more fat, the less calcium the food contains.
*** Calcium content is for tofu processed with a calcium salt. Tofu processed with other salts does not provide significant amounts of calcium.

Importance of Vitamin D

Used in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Vitamin D also enhances the absorption of calcium. It is recommended that individuals above 70 years consume not less than 800 Vitamin D units daily. Younger individuals are recommended to consume around 600 Vitamin D units daily.

This nutrient is available on its own or combined with other supplements. A good source is found in milk.

Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0–12 months* 400 IU
(10 mcg)
400 IU
(10 mcg)
1–13 years 600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
14–18 years 600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
19–50 years 600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
51–70 years 600 IU
(15 mcg)
600 IU
(15 mcg)
>70 years 800 IU
(20 mcg)
800 IU
(20 mcg)

* Adequate Intake (AI)

Signs of Vitamin D deficiency

This deficiency could be as a result of inadequacy in the diet, poor absorption, higher body requirement, increased excretion, and limited exposure to sunlight or a lower level of intake. Diets that are Vitamin D deficient are mainly associated with lactose intolerance, veganism, ovo-vegetarianism and milk allergy.

rickets-5

Vitamin D deficiency is known to result in osteomalacia and rickets. In kids, vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets, a condition described as failing of bone tissue to correctly mineralize, which results in delicate bones as well as skeletal deformities. Rickets was initially described from the mid-17th century by British researchers. From the late 19th and early 20th centuries, German physicians observed that taking one to three tsp each day of cod liver fish oil might reverse rickets. The fortification of milk with vitamin D starting in the 1930s has made rickets an uncommon disease in the USA, even though it remains to be reported regularly, especially amongst American-African infants & children.

Plain breast feeding without giving vitamin D supplements may also cause rickets if the mother isn’t Vitamin D replete. Other causes of rickets in children include too much use of sunscreen, minimal exercise and limited exposure to sunlight.

Symptoms of osteomalacia in adults include muscle weakness and bone pain.

Sources of Vitamin D and Calcium

A small can of salmon is sufficient to reach your daily goal of these important mineral and vitamin. The sun is also a good source. However, wearing sunscreen to protect the screen prevents the body from producing Vitamin D. The sun also has to be of sufficient intensity for it to benefit you.

Table 3: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin D
Food IUs per serving* Percent DV**
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon 1,360 340
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces 566 142
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces 447 112
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces 154 39
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies) 137 34
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup 115-124 29-31
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV) 80 20
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon 60 15
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines 46 12
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces 42 11
Egg, 1 large (vitamin D is found in yolk) 41 10
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, 0.75-1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV) 40 10
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce 6 2

* IUs = International Units.
** DV = Daily Value.

If your diet does not supply enough of these nutrients, then you might consider taking supplements or multivitamins. However, avoid overdoing your supplements as too much of these nutrients is not recommended.

References: http://ods.od.nih.gov

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