Crucial calcium

Calcium is well-known for its role in building strong bones early on in life, and keeping them strong as the year’s progress. However it appears that Australians of all ages may not be getting enough.

Results from the Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, reveal that Australian children were least likely to meet the daily calcium requirements, with a staggering 82 per cent of girls aged 12-16 years not meeting the requirement at all. This is disturbing, as you build most of your adult bone during childhood, once adolescence is over, the opportunity to build bone is finished. Not only that, inadequate calcium in childhood could lead to increased risk of fractures in children.
Older Australians are missing out too. A Roy Morgan study suggests that only eight per cent of people over the age of 60 actually meet the recommended consumption of three serves of dairy a day. The elderly are also prone to low levels of vitamin D, needed by the body to absorb and use calcium, which leads to a greater need for calcium. While a high calcium intake can’t reverse age-related bone loss, it can slow down the process.

Calcium intake is also critical during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when the developing baby takes its calcium requirements from its mother’s bones. According to a recent Japanese study, if mum’s diet is deficient in calcium she may be at greater risk of periodontal disease (bone loss around teeth and gums).

A University of Massachusetts study found that by consuming four servings of low-fat calcium-rich dairy products daily, women can reduce their risk of developing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by almost 50 per cent. For women who suffer from fatigue, cramping, breast tenderness, irritability and headaches every month, calcium could literally change their life.

And if all that is not enough for you to reach for a glass of milk, a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that increasing calcium and vitamin D levels could aid in weight loss, due to calcium’s ability to decrease the amount of fat you absorb.