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Dr. Robert Heaney Explains Calcium Intake, Soda Drinking & Vitamin D

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EmpowHer: “If the average woman has a calcium intake below what is recommended and all I am seeing are young girls drinking sodas and not milk, at what age should young women start taking daily calcium? Also, if vitamin D plays such a vital role shouldn’t they be taking a calcium supplement with vitamin D at a young age?”

Dr. Heaney: Well, they should be improving their calcium intake and they should be getting more vitamin D, so now the question is how best to do that.”

EmpowHer: “I agree.”

Dr. Heaney: “You pointed out they are drinking diet sodas rather than milk and one of the problems that we have noticed in our research at Creighton is that women who have low calcium intake tend to be low in at least four other key nutrients, and simply giving them a calcium supplement would not solve the rest of the problems.

For example, Dr. Bess Dawson, from the Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts in Boston, showed recently in a large study that the calcium and vitamin D reduce fracture risk in healthy Bostonian seniors by 50 percent.

She demonstrated that the bone benefit of the extra calcium was confined to people who had a high protein intake. We went back and checked in our nun database and found that this was true. The data has been there all along; we just simply overlooked it. That makes very good sense because we stressed that while calcium is a key component of bone protein is always necessary. Fifty percent of the volume of bone in fact is protein, one of the most protein-dense tissues we have in our bodies. You can take all the calcium out of your bone and it still looks like a bone except it now becomes rubbery. It is the kind of thing you have your dog chew.”

EmpowHer: “No, thanks, I’ll pass.”

Dr. Heaney: “It still looks like a bone, having exactly the same shape and feel, except for being hard and dense. So if you do not have enough protein in your diet then you are not going to be able to take advantage of the extra calcium.

We are dealing with the problem of total nutrition and it is for that reason that I strongly recommend dairy products. A dairy food is a marvelous choice for containing most of the nutrients that are likely to be in short supply in an adult female’s diet today.

Although it is possible to construct a good diet without dairy products most women simply will not do that, so they do not have two or three servings daily which are now in the dietary guidelines for all American adults. If they do not get that, it is highly likely that they are going to have some degree of nutritional deficiency, not just calcium, not just bone, but total body nutritional deficiency, which would not show up immediately. It takes years for nutritional inadequacy to manifest itself.”


Dr. Robert Heaney is from Creighton University Osteoporosis Research Center is internationally recognized in the field of bone, biology, and calcium nutrition. Visit Dr. Heaney on the web at Creighton University at http://osteoporosis.creighton.edu/bio_faculty/dr_heaney.htm

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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