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Calcium and Vitamin D-- Is There Such a Thing as Too Much?

The use of nutritional supplements in the United States has grown into a million dollar industry in the past few decades. The latest buzz in the world of health and fitness is the use of Calcium and Vitamin D supplements-- not just to prevent skeletal injuries but also because of the recent claims about their protective effects against heart disease, auto immune disorders, and most importantly the weight loss claims. The dietary supplement form of Vitamin D (also known as "the sunshine vitamin") which we usually get from our foods as well as from the sun is seen to be one of the largest selling supplement along the lines of omegas and fish oils.

Recently an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report came out which raised a furor amongst heath practitioners as well as the regular masses. The committee examined the available data consisting of over 1,000 publications to determine how much calcium and vitamin D do we get from our diet, versus how much is required for an optimal health and how much would be considered too much. The report suggests that when it comes to these two nutrients, vitamin D and calcium, the regular belief of "more is better" does not hold true.

Usually, doctors and health practitioners recommend a daily dose of 600 IU of calcium twice a day (i.e. 1,200 IU per day of calcium) and 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day. Health experts believe that the higher levels of Vitamin D and calcium are needed in the form of supplements along with the dietary source of these nutrients; not only for a healthy skeletal structure but also to prevent certain types of cancers. But the IOM report suggest that these levels are way too high and there is no sufficient evidence to prove the  connection between lower levels of these nutrients and risk of cancer. Also, the committee suggests the risk of higher levels of these nutrients to cause renal problems.

Baseline: More studies need to be done to establish appropriate recommendations for these two nutrients.

What can be done till then?
1) Maintain a healthy weight: Overweight and obesity is associated with osteoporosis/arthritis.
2) Keep yourself active: Regular exercising has shown to have beneficial effects on bone health.
3) Give up on processed foods and sugary drinks: High levels of sugar/sodium/saturated fats adversely affects both your weight and your bone health. Snack on natural, wholesome foods like nuts, milk, yogurt, avocado, tuna, etc. They not only are a good source of these nutrients but also other antioxidants and fiber that would increase your body's immunity against different types of cancer.
 4) Cut down on caffeine: Coffee and carbonated drinks affect the bone density. Better alternatives would be milk, kefir, low sugar calcium/vitamin fortified orange juice, etc which are a good source of calcium, vitamin D as well as other antioxidants.
5) Go for a routine bone density test if you are 50 or above. Work with your doctor and find out if you are deficient in any nutrient.

Keeping yourself active and maintaining a balanced diet is the mantra to a healthy body!

Prachi Baxi has a double masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Public Health Nutrition, she is a Nutrition Specialist certified by the American College of Nutrition and a Certified Yoga Instructor. Her immense experience in the field of Ashtanga Yoga coupled with her Nutrition knowledge she helps people who need to and want to change their way of life, become fit and discover their newer selves. She is a Fitness Counselor who has a passion for life and teaches yoga with intent and compassion. Prachi can be reached via email at prachii.baxii@gmail.com.

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