27 Mar Supplementing with Calcium Plus Vitamin D Could Save Millions in Healthcare Costs
It’s a fact that as we get older, our bone mineral density decreases, proportionately increasing our chances of suffering from osteoporosis, with women at particularly high risk. Because of this, over-55s have a much greater likelihood of experiencing fractures as a result of a fall.
A recent report from Frost and Sullivan has good news for us though. We’ve long known that getting enough Calcium for our bones is beneficial in young children and early adulthood, while a Vitamin D supplement is important from childhood onwards.
Now it seems that supplementing the diet with the combination of Calcium plus Vitamin D, slows the age-related decline in bone mineral density, effectively reducing the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures by about 15%.
With the rate that South Africa’s population is ageing (the WHO estimates our elderly population is likely to double by 2050), this translates into not only keeping them active for longer, but also saving money on healthcare costs for both the public and our overburdened healthcare systems.
Why are calcium and vitamin D important?
Calcium is essential for building strong bones and keeping them that way. It’s also needed by the heart to maintain a steady rhythm and by muscles and nerves to function well. There are many other possible benefits too, ranging from reducing blood pressure to preventing cancer, for which there are varying degrees of evidence.
In order for the Calcium to be properly absorbed, however, the body needs Vitamin D.
Vitamin D regulates the absorption of both Calcium and Phosphorus. Amongst other things, it also keeps our immune system healthy and helps with the development of strong bones and teeth.
There are studies that show it contributes to keeping anxiety and depression at bay, and it may also help with weight loss, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis, cancer and heart disease.
Where can we get them?
Calcium is naturally found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli, seeds, pulses and fish bones that are soft enough to eat. It’s also often an ingredient in fortified foods.
According to various studies, the ideal quantity of Calcium seems to be 1 000 – 1 200mg per day, ideally taken in a split dose and with food. Added to that, we need 15 – 20μg (or 600 – 800IU International Units) of Vitamin D a day. It is possible to overdose on both of these, which can lead to other health problems, so it’s important not to exceed the recommended dose.
Luckily, the body is capable of producing its own Vitamin D if it receives direct exposure to sunlight i.e. not through glass, which filters out the UVB that stimulates the process. Different sources have different opinions, but in general, it seems that 5 to 10 minutes a day is enough for most people, and that’s between 10am and midday, and without sunscreen (yes, you read that right).
Vitamin D stored in the body runs down over time, so needs constant topping up. Other sources, if you don’t have access to good sunlight for whatever reason, are egg yolks and (again) edible fish bones, for example, from canned salmon.
Many people still don’t get enough of either of these from their diets, however, especially if they are on a low calorie diet, so supplementation is highly recommended. As always, patients on other medication should consult a doctor before taking any supplements.
Be sure to inform your customers, especially those over 55, about why these two supplements are so highly recommended. After all, what’s not to love about being healthier and saving money?!