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We all want to live long, healthy lives. Every day it seems you turn on the news and hear conflicting information on vitamin supplementation. As we all know, our news reporting entities look for news – whether it is real news or the news they create. Let me give you an example.  A study on hormone replacement came out and saw an increase in breast cancer. We all remember what happened – the news media blew it all out of perspective, scared everyone to death, and basically created a news story – from basically no real news at all. Hence, my blog today is on vitamin supplementation. I am a minimalist. I do not believe you need numerous vitamins a day, IF you eat a good diet. If you do not eat a good diet, then you probably don’t care much about your health anyway – therefore, you are unlikely to take vitamins anyway. With that being said, I do think there is a place for vitamin supplementation in certain populations of people. It is not across the board!

Why Is Calcium Important?

Calcium is needed for our heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly and for blood to clot. Inadequate calcium significantly contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Many published studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates. On average, an adult needs about 1,000mg of calcium each day.

Check your calcium intake:

Fortified oatmeal, 1 packet 350
Sardines, canned in oil, with edible bones, 3 oz. 324
Cheddar cheese, 1½ oz. shredded 306
Milk, nonfat, 1 cup 302
Milkshake, 1 cup 300
Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup 300
Soybeans, cooked, 1 cup 261
Tofu, firm, with calcium, ½ cup 204
Orange juice, fortified with calcium, 6 oz. 200–260 (varies)
Salmon, canned, with edible bones, 3 oz. 181
Pudding, instant (chocolate, banana, etc.) made with 2% milk, ½ cup 153
Baked beans, 1 cup 142
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup 138
Spaghetti, lasagna, 1 cup 125
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft-serve, ½ cup 103
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with calcium, 1 cup 100–1,000 (varies)
Cheese pizza, 1 slice 100
Fortified waffles, 2 100
Turnip greens, boiled, ½ cup 99
Broccoli, raw, 1 cup 90
Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup 85
Soy or rice milk, fortified with calcium, 1 cup 80–500 (varies)

Why Is Vitamin D Important?

The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, one can’t form enough of the hormone calcitriol (known as the “active vitamin D”). This in turn leads to insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. In this situation, the body must take calcium from its stores in the skeleton, which weakens existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone.

You can get vitamin D in three ways: through the skin, from the diet, and from supplements. Experts recommend a daily intake of 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D up to age 70. Men and women over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily, which also can be obtained from supplements or vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk. It is estimated that you need about 15-20 minutes of sun exposure 3 times a week for adequate Vitamin D.

So, Who Needs Supplementation?

The need for calcium is the highest during periods of rapid growth, including adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. Your body is smart enough to substantially increase the absorption of calcium to support the growth. But increased calcium intake is still necessary during these periods. Adolescents and pregnant and lactating women need 1,300 mg calcium a day.

Other groups at risk of calcium deficiency include postmenopausal women, strict vegetarians who avoid dairy products, women who stop having periods, and the female athlete triad.

If you fall in these groups, then make sure you are getting plenty of calcium. Remember: your diet is the best way to get any vitamins and minerals. If you are lacking the appropriate vitamins and minerals in your diet, consider supplementation.