Aug. 17: HEALTH MATTTERS
Should you be taking calcium and vitamin D supplements?
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is essential to build strong bones when you are young and to keep them healthy as you age. Â Calcium also helps blood clot, nerves send messages and muscles contract. Our body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency is linked to lower bone density, cancer, heart disease, depression and weight gain.
Each day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and faeces, but our bodies cannot produce new calcium. When we donâ€™t get enough calcium for our bodyâ€™s needs, it is taken from our bones. If your exposure to sunlight is limited or you follow a strict vegan diet, you are likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency. When faced with deficiencies, people often turn to supplements. But, are they not better off getting the nutrients from a healthy diet?
Heart disease risk
In general, you shouldnâ€™t take supplements that you donâ€™t need. Several studies have linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of heart attacks and death from cardiovascular disease. This is because when calcium enters the blood stream through a supplement, but not gradually through dietary sources, it can result in calcium deposits in arteries. Taking calcium supplements may also cause kidney stones and gastrointestinal problems.
The safest and most effective source of calcium for strong bones and overall health is diet, not supplements. Calcium-rich foodsÂ include milk, cheese, yogurt, almonds, broccoli and soy milk.
If you are concerned about vitamin D deficiency, get a test done. If the level is low and your doctor starts you on supplements, repeat testing in eight to 12 weeks to make sure the level is not too high or too low. If your vitamin D level is normal, repeat testing every two to three years unless you have major changes in your overall health.Â
Good sources of vitamin D are mushrooms, eggs, fortified milk, soy beverages, and salmon. Our bodies also make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, so experts suggest getting 10 minutes of sunshine per day. Â Â