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Calcium absorption: How does vitamin D and dieting factor in?

Posted on: February 28, 2013   by  John Cannell, MD


Recently, some people have stopped supplementing with calcium due to fears that calcium supplementation will increase cardiovascular disease. We recently wrote about that issue.

Is calcium supplementation a good idea? Posted on November 27, 2012 by John Cannell, MD

Other people have stopped calcium supplements due to the belief that 5,000 IU/day of vitamin D will increase dietary intestinal calcium absorption to the point that calcium supplements are not needed. This belief is in part based on Professor Robert Heaney’s work showing that calcium absorption increases when vitamin D levels go from 20 ng/ml to 32 ng/ml, with no further increase in calcium absorption with levels higher than 32 ng/ml.

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7 Responses to Calcium absorption: How does vitamin D and dieting factor in?

  1. Ian

    What do you think would be a safe upper limit of supplemental calcium given an average dietary intake of 600mg daily?

  2. Rita and Misty

    The information is very good, and has gotten me to reconsider calcium supplementation.

    Even though I eat quite a bit of dairy and other calcium rich foods (like sardines) there’s no way my diet is providing me with enough calcium…

    Back to the Vitamin Store I go….

  3. Rebecca Oshiro

    Ian, if you are ingesting 600 mg of calcium through diet then you would only need 400 mg more of calcium supplementation to hit the RDA for that particular nutrient. The idea is to achieve the RDA for a given nutrient either through diet alone or through a combination of diet and supplements (not take the complete amount of the RDA in supplemental form in addition to dietary sources of the nutrient).

  4. [email protected]

    If we do not believe in the RDA for vitamin D3, why should we believe in the other RDA-data?
    I must admit that I don´t trust either my Swedish FDA or the American FDA or any other FDA in the world. There are unholy alliances between Big Food – Big Pharma – Medical community. If the food is too processed to have any viable nutrients, what´s left more thn supplements?

    Who says that the idea is to get everything via food or the combination via food and supplements? Just think about vitamin D3, I do not have to say more …

  5. [email protected]

    If you’re eating a relatively ‘healthy’ diet you can give yourself about 300 mg of calcium right off the bat, for incidental amounts of calcium in all foods. We tend to group nutrients into a handful of foods, i.e. only could the calcium in milk, or fish with bones. If you’re eating whole foods for most of your diet, you only need to include one or two servings of other calcium-rich foods [insert choice here ________ ]

    If we always go back to equitorial humans to say we should get vitamin D in amounts that they produce when living with a more natural relationship with the sun, shouldn’t we apply the same logic with calcium? They were not getting 1000mg + per day….

  6. [email protected]

    In 2000, I read an interesting book by Susan Brown, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist, titled “Better Bones, Better Body.” In it she writes why some cultures get by with far less calcium than we are advised in the U.S. She also maintains a web site by the same name. I’ve been taking a calcium supplement that’s labeled as “whole-food calcium” – a Cal/Mag, Vit. D3 & natural K2 complex from New Chapter. Being told to supplement with the standard 1200 mg. of calcium for years but now taking this algae-based calcium has been something of a leap in faith, I must admit.

  7. wraywhyte

    Looking at the list of pointers above, it could be a lack of protein and magnesium in the diet which caused the loss of calcium, particularly in the restricted diets. Increasing protein to 0.9 to 1.0g per kg per day, increased calcium loss in the urine, but increased calcium deposition in the bones, see Korean J Fam Med. 2013 Jan;34(1):43-8, Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S122-9, West Indian Med J. 2012 Jun;61(3):213-8, J. Nutr. 138:1096-1100, June 2008, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, No. 6, 1517-1525, June 2003, Nutr Rev. 2002 Oct;60(10 Pt 1):337-41 and Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72(1):168-73. Wray

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