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Healthy bones need both Calcium And Vitamin D: here's why

Healthy bones need both Calcium And Vitamin D: here's why

Why Calcium is critical for bone health – and how much you need

It’s fairly well understood that strong, dense, healthy bones need Calcium to stay that way.  But not everyone understands how this vital nutrient helps to build and strengthen bones.

Although bone tissue looks lifeless and unchanging, it’s actually living, growing tissue that your body continually renews.  This happens in constant cycle called “remodelling”, in which old tissue is broken down and demineralised, and new bone is rebuilt and remineralised.

Calcium is the key element in the remineralising mix, which is why your body needs a good Calcium intake to maintain bone density.  That means you need between 1000-1300mg of dietary Calcium each day1, depending on your age and sex.  However, Calcium on its own is not enough to keep your bones healthy.

Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb and use the Calcium 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that your body produces when you expose your skin to sunlight. If Calcium had to pass through a locked door to enter your bone tissue, Vitamin D would be the key that turned the lock.  Without it, all that Calcium would remain in your blood stream, or be deposited in your artery walls.

Additionally, Vitamin D plays a role in absorbing Calcium from the food within your small intestine. It also helps to avoid urinary Calcium loss by helping your kidneys to re-absorb Calcium back into your bloodstream.  In short, unless you’re also getting enough Vitamin D, even the best dietary Calcium intake can still result in lowered bone density.

How much Vitamin D do you really need?

As with many nutrients, the Vitamin D levels your body needs to keep you healthy depends on your age.  However, your body creates almost all of your Vitamin D from a reaction that occurs when your skin is exposed to sunlight. This means there’s no RDI (Recommended  Dietary Intake) as there is for most other nutrients.

One study found that fair-skinned people can get enough Vitamin D by exposing 6% of their skin to sunlight for 15-30min, 2-3 times per week2.  This is the equivalent of the skin on your face, forearms and hands.  However, this might not be enough for you if you:

  • Have darker skin: melanin reduces your Vitamin D production
  • Live in certain latitudes: e.g. where there is less daylight, or weaker sunlight
  • Wear clothing that covers most of your skin: e.g. for cultural reasons
  • Are photosensitive or housebound, or for any other reason can’t incorporate this level of sun exposure into your life

Additionally, your Vitamin D production can vary considerably according to the season3, with far lower levels in Winter than in Summer.  

In each of these cases, you can increase your Vitamin D levels by “topping up” with a high-quality Vitamin D supplement.  For best results, look for supplements that provide at least 1000IU (25mcg) daily, and that contain Vitamin D3 – the active Vitamin D form.

1Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, 2006 p158
2Kimlin MG, Downs NJ, Parisi AV. Comparison of human facial UV exposure at high and low latitudes and the potential impact on dermal vitamin D production. Photochem Photobiol Sci 2003;2:370–5
3Eur J Nutr 2011;doi:10.1007/s00394-010-0142-7

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Healthy bones need both Calcium And Vitamin D: here's why

Strong, dense, healthy bones need Calcium. But also essential is Vitamin D. What is this vital nutrient? How can it help to build & strengthen bones?

Why Calcium is critical for bone health – and how much you need

It’s fairly well understood that strong, dense, healthy bones need Calcium to stay that way.  But not everyone understands how this vital nutrient helps to build and strengthen bones.

Although bone tissue looks lifeless and unchanging, it’s actually living, growing tissue that your body continually renews.  This happens in constant cycle called “remodelling”, in which old tissue is broken down and demineralised, and new bone is rebuilt and remineralised.

Calcium is the key element in the remineralising mix, which is why your body needs a good Calcium intake to maintain bone density.  That means you need between 1000-1300mg of dietary Calcium each day1, depending on your age and sex.  However, Calcium on its own is not enough to keep your bones healthy.

Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb and use the Calcium 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that your body produces when you expose your skin to sunlight. If Calcium had to pass through a locked door to enter your bone tissue, Vitamin D would be the key that turned the lock.  Without it, all that Calcium would remain in your blood stream, or be deposited in your artery walls.

Additionally, Vitamin D plays a role in absorbing Calcium from the food within your small intestine. It also helps to avoid urinary Calcium loss by helping your kidneys to re-absorb Calcium back into your bloodstream.  In short, unless you’re also getting enough Vitamin D, even the best dietary Calcium intake can still result in lowered bone density.

How much Vitamin D do you really need?

As with many nutrients, the Vitamin D levels your body needs to keep you healthy depends on your age.  However, your body creates almost all of your Vitamin D from a reaction that occurs when your skin is exposed to sunlight. This means there’s no RDI (Recommended  Dietary Intake) as there is for most other nutrients.

One study found that fair-skinned people can get enough Vitamin D by exposing 6% of their skin to sunlight for 15-30min, 2-3 times per week2.  This is the equivalent of the skin on your face, forearms and hands.  However, this might not be enough for you if you:

  • Have darker skin: melanin reduces your Vitamin D production
  • Live in certain latitudes: e.g. where there is less daylight, or weaker sunlight
  • Wear clothing that covers most of your skin: e.g. for cultural reasons
  • Are photosensitive or housebound, or for any other reason can’t incorporate this level of sun exposure into your life

Additionally, your Vitamin D production can vary considerably according to the season3, with far lower levels in Winter than in Summer.  

In each of these cases, you can increase your Vitamin D levels by “topping up” with a high-quality Vitamin D supplement.  For best results, look for supplements that provide at least 1000IU (25mcg) daily, and that contain Vitamin D3 – the active Vitamin D form.

1Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, 2006 p158
2Kimlin MG, Downs NJ, Parisi AV. Comparison of human facial UV exposure at high and low latitudes and the potential impact on dermal vitamin D production. Photochem Photobiol Sci 2003;2:370–5
3Eur J Nutr 2011;doi:10.1007/s00394-010-0142-7
Healthy bones need both Calcium And Vitamin D: here's why
 

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