Pathways to Wellness

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Strong bodies, strong bones

Calcium and Vitamin D work together to grow and maintain strong bones across the lifespan, from infancy to the senior years. 

Calcium is a mineral that builds bones and teeth; Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body use and hang on to the calcium that we take in through foods such as milk and milk products, dark green vegetables like kale and broccoli, and some fish.  Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines, egg yolks, and Vitamin D-fortified milk, milk products, and soy drinks. 

Our bodies can also convert the UV rays in sunlight into Vitamin D.  But this is a double-edged sword: too much exposure to UV rays increases risk for skin cancer.

Most babies and toddlers get enough calcium to build strong bones, but about 25 percent of Canadian children aged 4-8 may not be getting enough.  There is also reason to be particularly concerned about girls and young women aged 9-19 years.  Canadians of all ages may be drinking too much pop and other sugar sweetened drinks and not enough milk or milk alternatives.

Both too little and too much calcium and Vitamin D could be a problem.  So the picture is complicated.  Health Canada is currently updating their recommendations based on a recent Institute of Medicine report that examined intake and levels of calcium and vitamin D in North Americans.  For the time being, Health Canada recommends:

  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide to get enough calcium and Vitamin D.  Anyone over 2 years of age should be drinking 2 cups of milk or fortified milk alternatives (such as soy milk) per day.  Learn more at http://www.yukonwellness.ca/colourful.php.
  • Breast-fed babies under the age of 1 year and people over 50 years of age should take Vitamin D supplements.  Talk with your physician or pharmacist or visit the Health Canada website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php to find out how much is recommended for you or your family.  You can also find a Q & A section on Vitamin D and Calcium on this site.

P.S.  Please don’t rely on sunshine alone to boost your Vitamin D.  Play in the sunshine – nature is good for body and soul – but make sure to use sunscreen!

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