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Ratio of Vitamin D to Calcium for Bone Health

By Nancy Clarke

Bone care is a lifelong task that pays off by keeping your teeth healthy and your skeleton strong as long as possible. Normal bone density keeps your teeth properly fixed in your jawbone and protected from decay and your bones at lower risk for fracture. Feed your bones and help your children get the nutrients they need for optimum development by sharing food sources of calcium and vitamin D. Good nutrition at every life stage can prolong your mobility and your enjoyment of life.

Bone Remodeling

Your body uses calcium and vitamin D to generate new bone cells and vitamin D, in particular, to access the calcium in digested foods. Children use these nutrients to build primary bone mass until about ages 18 to 20 and to renew old bone tissue. Adults continue the latter process of bone remodeling to create new, young bone in place of older bone cells. Whenever daily vitamin and mineral stores fall short, the body “borrows” nutrients from existing bone mass that it might never fully replace.

Calcium Needs

Young children over age 4 should get 1,000 mg of calcium per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Children ages 9 and up experience rapid bone growth and need 1,300 mg of calcium until age 19, when needs fall to 1,000 mg daily. Adults over 50 should get 1,200 mg of calcium to address decreased absorption and their greater risk for bone loss. Low-fat dairy products, fish canned with bones, beans and nuts are good dietary sources.

Vitamin D Requirements

Your body makes some vitamin D in skin tissue. Recommended vitamin D intakes reflect the portion of vitamin D that the average person does not get from skin exposure to sunlight. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests a daily allowance of 15 mcg for all ages, which you can ensure by drinking vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice and eating ocean fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut.


Diets that are low in vitamin D and calcium increase your chances of losing bone density and developing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and allows them to fracture more easily. According to the USDA, one in two women and one in four men experience a broken bone due to osteoporosis after age 50. Those who suffer a hip or vertebral fracture have a higher risk for premature death.

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