Prevention of osteoporosis is very important. Although there are treatments for osteoporosis, optimal skeletal health and strengthening your bones begins with prevention. A comprehensive osteoporosis prevention program includes:

  • Balanced diet rich in calcium & vitamin D
  • Weight-bearing exercise
  • A healthy lifestyle with no smoking and limited alcohol intake
  • Bone density or BMD testing
  • Medical therapy when appropriate

It is important to split up your calcium during the day in order to best absorb it. If you suffer from any calcium disorders, such as calcium kidney stones, be sure to consult your physician. 1200-1500mg a day, such as 300-500mg at a time, 3 times a day recommended. (3 glasses of milk or calcium fortified orange juice for example).

All calcium types (carbonate, citrate, gluconate, for example) are effective though rarely, the calcium tablets you buy may not contain exactly what they claim to since they are not regulated being over the counter. Liquid calcium avoids the risk that the calcium tablet may not always dissolve as expected (there is not a reliable 'dissolving test' you can do), though most people prefer tablets or fortified foods with calcium.

If calcium is taken with food, many of the differences in absorption between types of calcium dissappear. If your vitamin D intake and therefore levels are adequate (see vitamin D section below), you should absorb most of your calcium, if not, you may only absorb 10% of your calcium.

The most important message is to take your calcium several times a day however you prefer and however you will remember

Take the kind of calcium you like and will remember.


Adapted from Steve Setter's Calcium Information with appreciation
Updated 2/9/07 by Natalie Kissell, PharmD Student

Lactose Intolerant or Milk Allergy?

  • High calcium foods in dairy products contain the milk-sugar, lactose.
  • Symptoms of lactose intolerance include gas, bloating, cramps and/or diarrhea after consuming lactose products.
  • A milk allergy is an adverse response caused by an immune reaction due to an exposure of the milk proteins, whey and casein.
  • Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, itching, asthma, cough, runny nose and anaphylactic shock.

Coping with Lactose Intolerance

  • Eat smaller but more frequent servings of dairy
  • Drink milk WITH meals.
  • Swiss and cheddar have very little lactose.
  • Yogurt has 30% less lactose.
  • Use products with lactase, enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, ie. Lactaid milk.

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D is needed to absorb Calcium. Vitamin D is produced in the skin from UVB sunlight and obtained from the diet (egg yokes), but it is very difficult to get enough enough vitamin D this way, and any use of sunblock blocks vitamin D production completely. Protecting you skin from the negative effects of sunlight is more important than making vitamin D when you can take vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D supplements are the best way to keep your levels up. Recommended daily intake of 800 units or IU of vitamin D may be too low for people with fractures or osteoporosis, and the daily requirement will soon be 1000 IU. Many men and women need over 2000 IU a day of Vitamin D for healthy bones.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and can be taken all at once, unlike calcium that needs to be split up. You can buy over the counter, 400 IU, 750 IU, 1000 IU and 2000 IU tablets without vitamin A or anyother substance in them. Vitamin D toxicity or getting too much with very high levels and high calcium blood levels is extremely rare and studies have reassured us that these recommendations for osteoporosis are safe. Of course, if you have any questions or doubts, please ask your medical provider or doctor about your specific calcium and vitamin D needs and how much you should take.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the elderly and in people who have broken a bone, especially their hip. Low vitamin D levels occur in women as young as 50 years old without known risk factors. Low Vitamin D levels contribute to fracture risk, increased weakness and falls and osteoporosis.

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Table of Vitamin D in Food