The importance of getting enough calcium for strong bones has always been reinforced in my life. I have never really had a hard time drinking enough milk because I love it. Later in my life, I learned that drinking milk may not be enough, that the recommendation 1,000–1,300mg per day might not be benefiting my bones if I was not ALSO getting the recommended amount of vitamin D to help the calcium do its job. WHAT?!
Fast forward to today when I have fallen in love (yes LOVE!) with exercise and nutrition, and how the body uses both to orchestrate the operation of multiple systems every minute of every day. I decided to go back to school a few years ago and finish my bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, surrounding myself with new information all the time.
I was reading through a newsletter published by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and in crept my old friend vitamin D. The article does a great job of explaining that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and should be consumed with Omega 3, 6, or 9 fatty acids to help transport it to the appropriate metabolic pathways to be broken down to its active form (either Calcidiol or Calcitriol) and stored for future use.
The article mentions a plant-based form of vitamin D2, but with further research, I have found that there really are not many vegetables that have high enough levels of vitamin D, so food fortification has resulted. What I find most fascinating is that being deficient in vitamin D can lead to osteomalacia. What is this disease you ask? It is the demineralization of the bones of the body, where they become soft and almost bendable. Much like osteoporosis, osteomalacia can increase the risk of bone fractures with age.
Take away message here? Get your vitamin D every day so you can benefit from the calcium in your diet. The current recommendation is to get 600–800 international units if you are generally healthy. I have a variety of food sources of vitamin D around, oily fish, fortified milk, cereals, and beans so that my family of four has enough vitamin D to optimize calcium absorption and protect their bones now and in the future.
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