Frightening Calcium Facts

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Wow!……..50% of women, and 25% of men over 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis!

Until recently, doctors and dietitians have recommended calcium supplements for those not getting enough from their diet. Recent research is emerging to show that calcium from supplements may not be effective at improving bone health, and may even increase risk of heart disease. The research is suggesting that dietary sources trump the supplements.

Rickets (child)

Rickets (child)

Hip fracture

Hip fracture (adult)

Why is calcium important?

  • bone health – 99% of calcium is in the bones , it is needed to prevent osteoporosis (softening of bones), resulting in fractures and to prevent rickets in children.
  • 1% of calcium found outside the bones is essential for: muscle contraction, blood clotting, stabilising blood pressure, normal brain function, communicating essential information among cells.

How much calcium do I need?

Age Calcium/day Stars (1 star = 60mg)
Babies <1 525mg 9
1-3 350mg 6
4-6 450mg 7.5
7-10 550mg 9
11-18 Girls 800mg/Boys 1000mg 13/16
19+ 700mg 11
Breastfeeding mums 1250mg 25
Post menopausal women 1200mg 20
Coeliac disease Adults 1500mgChildren 750mg 2512

Sources of calcium:

Food Amount Calcium stars
Milk 200ml ★★★★
Cheese Matchbox size (30g) ★★★★
Cheese triangle 15g ★★
Yoghurt 1 pot (150g) ★★★★
Rice pudding ½ tin (200g) ★★★
Custard 120ml ★★
Ovaltine original 25g (with milk) ★★★★★★★
Calcium enriched soya/rice/oat/almond milk 200ml ★★★★
Sardines ½ tin ★★★★
Prawns 3 tablespoons ★★
Salmon, tinned ½ tin ★★
Baked beans Small tin (220g) ★★
Hummus 150g
Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon
Brazil nuts 9
Almonds 12
Broccoli 1 cup ★★★
Spring greens 75g
Kale 1 cup
Soya beans (edamame) 1 cup ★★★
Orange 1
Figs, dried 4 ★★★
Apricots 8
Bread 2 slices
Pitta/chapatti 1
ReadyBrek 1 serving ★★★★

Vitamin D – It essential for bone health to have good levels of vitamin D, as it is needed for the gut to absorb calcium, and for bone formation. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, and during winter months from sunlight, which is why I recommend a vitamin D supplement. Here’s more info on vitamin D

Anything else?

Other dietary factors are important for bone health include:

  • protein – meat, fish, eggs, dairy

    Balanced meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

    Balanced meals with protein, vegetables and whole grains

  • magnesium – dairy, fruit, veg, whole grains
  • phosphorous – excessive intake harmful (fizzy drinks)
  • potassium – fruit and veg
  • vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A – fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, eggs
So as you can see, a balanced diet including calcium rich foods, fruit, vegetables, with some meat, fish and eggs are all important for the health of your bones.
If you are not getting enough calcium from your diet, then it is worth consulting with a dietitian who can help you redesign your diet and give easy and practical suggestions for upping your intake.
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