“Milk, it does a body good” and “Got Milk” were advertising campaigns appearing in television commercials in the ’80s and ’90s – The good old days. The motivation behind the promotion of milk consumption is likely the increasing competition from soda and sport drink manufacturers in the beverage industry. For a market without a strong brand presence, this kind of dairy product was gaining traction in communicating its health benefits. Most consumers would associate calcium with milk and cheese.
And yet, with such a word of mouth of dairy products, Americans may face an issue with a growing prevalence of osteoporosis – a health issue characterized by loss of bone mass with little growth. It was estimated that 54% of adults above 50 years of age, or 53.6 million Americans, were affected by osteoporosis or low bone mass in 2010, according to an analysis of US Census data for that year (Wright et al., 2014). If these groups of adults have likely seen ads for dairy products, then why are do we see 1 in 2 individuals being affected?
A healthcare guide on the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis suggests non-drug means other than calcium: Exercise and Vitamin D (Zaheer and LeBoff, 2018). Running, lifting weights, and moving around puts some stress to the bones and muscles, which stimulates recovery, and in turn, results in the strengthening and increasing resiliency of bone structure. Your physical fitness truly becomes a matter of use it or lose it kind of deal. The elbow and knee joints are also part of the skeletal structure. Like a car having to move now and then to keep the engine and moving parts lubricated, you also have to move to maintain healthy joints and a vigor body.
Vitamin D can also help stave osteoporosis as it helps in the absorption of calcium. It goes to show that you can have a lot of calcium from your diet, but not a lot will get absorbed if there’s not enough Vitamin D that should go along with it. What are good sources of Vitamin D? One is sunlight from Mother Nature. Exposure to the sun causing a visible shade of skin can be the equivalence of receiving a Vitamin D dose of 10,000 to 25,000 IUs, compared to the following recommended dosages by age group based on a pharmacology article (2012):
- 0-18 years old: 1,000 IUs per day
- 19 years and older: 1,500 – 2,000 IUs per day
That same article further lists the health benefits of Vitamin D, which are the lowered risk for cancer, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, depression, autoimmune diseases, and bone fractures.
Now back to calcium on preventing osteoporosis. Believe it or not, calcium through dietary intake or supplementation is what helps prevent its loss from bones in the first place. In other words, have calcium before you lose some naturally from your bones. A recommended amount of calcium is 1,000 mg daily for women of 19-50 years of age, men of 19-70 years of age, and 1,200 mg daily for women greater than 50 years of age, and men greater than 70 years of age (Zaheer and LeBoff, 2018).
In some patient cases, drug therapy is necessary to prevent the loss of bone mass with age, so doctors may prescribe medications that do just that.
As we’ve seen, maintaining bone health is a multifactorial process made up of habits of fitness and having calcium and vitamin D daily. If you’re living in a geographic area that doesn’t get much sunlight throughout the year, you will benefit from having vitamin D in the form of supplements. There are combination calcium plus vitamin D products for adults at your local pharmacy or retailer. Ask a pharmacist which product is right for you. There are plenty of calcium and vitamin D products of different strengths for persons of different ages, from children to adults. Consider your lifestyle and ask what kinds of exercise and dietary habit works best for you.
Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. Journal of pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118–126. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
Wright, N. C., Looker, A. C., Saag, K. G., Curtis, J. R., Delzell, E. S., Randall, S., & Dawson-Hughes, B. (2014). The recent prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States based on bone mineral density at the femoral neck or lumbar spine. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 29(11), 2520–2526. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4757905/
Zaheer S, LeBoff MS. Osteoporosis: Prevention and Treatment. [Updated 2018 Nov 26]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279073/