Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Are you consuming enough calcium?

When it comes to calcium supplementation, most people wonder why they need to take extra calcium.

Everyone knows calcium is useful for healthy bones. But, almost no one knows how much calcium they should be taking, and how much are they actually taking.

Countrywise daily calcium intake

A paper published in the journal Osteoporosis International performed a systematic review of calcium consumption by adults in different countries around the world.

Guess which countries had adequate daily consumption of calcium, above the recommended levels? None.

Below is a brief summary of the data. Of course, all the data is not comparable. The measurements were taken in different years, on limited population, special age or gender groups. The third column tells you if the data can be considered representative of the whole country, and if it was not, why not.

Table 1. Average calcium intake in different countries (mg/day)
Calcium intakeCountryRepresentative?
175NepalNo (local, small)
238UgandaNo (local, children, small)
297ColombiaNo (local, age, small)
313ThailandNo (local, small)
335GambiaNo (age, small)
338ChinaNo (children)
342IndonesiaNo (old)
345VietnamNo (local)
358Burkina FasoNo (local)
384EcuadorNo (age)
393Cape VerdeNo (children)
399MalaysiaNo (age)
427ArgentinaNo (age, women)
440PhilippinesNo (children)
444MaliNo (local, women, small)
462PakistanNo (local, women, small)
471TanzaniaNo (local, age, small, old)
479South AfricaNo (old)
483South KoreaYes
488NorwayNo (age, old)
489GuamNo (small)
492IsraelNo (age, old)
495EgyptNo (age, women)
498MyanmarNo (old)
505BrazilNo (age)
507PalestineNo (local, age, women, small)
529BangladeshNo (children)
533JapanNo (age)
587TaiwanNo (age)
588BotswanaNo (local, age, small)
607TongaNo (local, age, small)
616AlgeriaNo (local, age, small)
636NigeriaNo (children)
664EthiopiaNo (local, small)
672MoroccoNo (local, small)
673Costa RicaNo (age, small, old)
702ChileNo (local, age, small)
760CameroonNo (local, small)
773AustriaNo (age, small)
782Czech RepublicNo (local, age)
788RussiaNo (local, age)
794SingaporeNo (age)
805MexicoNo (age)
807New ZealandYes
830PolandNo (local, age)
837JamaicaNo (local, age, small, old)
838SerbiaNo (age)
856JordanNo (small)
859IranNo (local, age)
865LatviaNo (age, small, old)
942GreeceNo (age, old)
965CroatiaNo (local, age, small)
992SwedenNo (age, old)
994UKNo (age)
1067SwitzerlandNo (local, age)
1097FinlandNo (age)
1102NetherlandsNo (age)
1233IcelandNo (local, age, small)

Based on the above data, International Osteoporosis Foundation created an Average Dietary Calcium Map of the world, for a visual impact.

Which country do you belong to? Do people in your country get reasonably enough dietary calcium?

Recommended dietary allowance

For comparison, here is a table of current recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for calcium. The calcium intake numbers are in mg/day.

Table 2. Calcium RDAs for various age groups in the USA (mg/day)
AgeMaleFemaleUpper limit
0–6 months200200?
7–12 months260260?
1–3 years700700?
4–8 years10001000?
9–13 years13001300?
14–18 years13001300?
19–50 years130013002500
51–70 years130013002000
71+ years130013002000

Of course, if you go to the National Institutes of Health website, you will still find older numbers that recommend 1000 mg/day in adulthood. These guidelines have been revised to 1300 mg recently and the table reflects that.

In the old age, the requirement of calcium intake stays high because the body cannot absorb calcium well.

Read on this website: Recommended dietary intake of various nutrients.

Don’t get too paranoid about these numbers. These are just the numbers for the USA. Depending on the country you are located in, there are different numbers recommended. They get decided based on demographics, food sources, dietary habits, and even political issues. Here is are a couple of tables for RDA in different countries. The calcium intake numbers are in mg/day.

Calcium RDA for age of 51–70 years

Table 3. Calcium RDA for age of 51–70 years (mg/day)
Australia / NZ10001300

Calcium RDA for age of 70+ years

Table 4. Calcium RDA for age of 70+ years (mg/day)
Australia / NZ13001300

Calcium intake at young age

No one worries about calcium intake at young age, especially in teenagers, and young adults (below 30 years of age). However, that is the age, when you should be worried the most. Here is my short YouTube video that explains why:

Calcium and Indian population

Coming back to the original paper and the first table, here is the part specific to India:
An Indian adult consumes only 429 mg of calcium a day (through his food).

The vitamin D deficiency is very common among Indians. That prevents absorption of Calcium.

Also, many Indians are vegetarians and eat plant–based diet. The oxalates in plant foods bind to dietary calcium and reduce its absorption.

An very detailed article about all the strategies you can employ to make or keep your bones stronger: Everything you want to know about building and maintaining strong bones.

In conclusion

Most people in the world, specially in the developing world, do not get adequate amount of calcium through their diets.

First published on: 17th November, 2018


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