Nutrition

The nutrient reference value (NRV) refers to what was previously known as recommended daily intake (or RDI). There are some general guidelines for the NRV of both calcium and vitamin D in Australia, however these change according to many factors including age, gender, life stage, diet and for those with a specific deficiency.

Calcium

The average Australian adult is recommended to achieve an NRV of 1000mg of calcium per day. 1300mg of calcium per day is recommended for all postmenopausal women and men aged over 70 years.

Vitamin D

The NRV (Nutrient Reference Value, NHMRC 2005) or adequate intake for adults is 200 – 600 IU (5-15 micrograms) per day depending on age, but is of limited relevance since most vitamin D comes from sunlight.

GOOD CALCIUM NUTRITION

Calcium performs various functions in the body and plays important roles in the muscular, nervous and endocrine (hormone) systems. Getting enough calcium is important to help protect us from developing osteoporosis later in life. It is also important to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, as it helps in the absorption of calcium. By age 30, peak bone mass (maximum bone density) is reached and most of this is achieved by puberty when there is the greatest rate of growth. Adequate calcium is especially important during childhood and adolescence, and yet this is often a time of inadequate calcium intake.

Later in life, when the body loses calcium, particularly around the time of menopause for women, there is an increased requirement for calcium. As men also lose calcium throughout the ageing process, it is also important that they consume enough calcium.

CALCIUM FROM FOOD

Most studies show that the required daily intake for postmenopausal women is 1300mg of calcium. Approximately 60% of our calcium intake comes from dairy products, the rest from the small amounts contained in breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables.

In general, 3 serves of dairy products per day (one serve is equal to 250ml milk, 1 tub yoghurt etc), will provide the NRV for most Australians.

Low fat dairy options are usually available and are preferable for some individuals. For those with inadequate calcium intake, it may be necessary to include calcium supplements.

If you cannot tolerate dairy products, especially if you are lactose intolerant or vegan vegetarian (vegan vegetarians do not eat any animal products whatsoever including any dairy), there are now an increasing number of calcium-enriched products, for example orange juice, cereals, soy milks and even some breads.