Which site?
Home
Healthy Eating
Nutrition Calculators
Dining Out
Diet & Exercise
Ask The Dietitian
Question Archive
Click a topic, then
Additional Resources
About Us
Ask the Dietitian is not a substitute for a consultation with a professional who can inform you of all the facts of your particular situation. We answer questions in general terms only, to give you information that may used as a starting point.
TOPIC - Calcium
Question
I do not like milk, so can I get enough calcium by drinking soy milk instead?
Answer
Soy milk that does not have calcium added is quite low in calcium (less than 50 mg per cup) compared to cow's milk which has close to 300 mg per cup. Fresh soy milk generally do not have calcium added, so it is not a good substitute for the calcium content in cow's milk. Some pre-packaged soy milk (particularly those from the US and Australia) are fortified with calcium, and depending on how much calcium is added, they can be a good substitute. Although soy milk is low in calcium, soybean curd and cooked soy beans have a fair amount of calcium. For other good food sources of calcium, refer to the article Focus on Calcium in the Healthy Eating section.
Question
I understand that in order for the body to absorb calcium, it needs phosphorus. What is the ratio of the two components in order for the body to absorb it? And will the body lose calcium if the ratio in the food is higher on the phosphorus content?
Answer
Calcium absoprtion is affected by both levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Thus, phosphorus does have to be present for optimal absorption. A calcium to phosphorus (Ca/P) ratio of 2:1 to 1:1 promotes the highest level of absorption. Dietary sources of phosphorus include dairy products, eggs, cereals, and meats. If you take a lot more phosphorus than calcium (Ca/P ratio greater than 1:2), such as having a high protein diet or large intake of carbonated beverages, both high in phosphorus, calcium excretion is increased.

An important note, Vitamin D is also needed for calcium and phosphate absorption. In tropical climates that is usually not an issue but in countries where sunshine is not always available year-round, foods fortified with vitamin D should be consumed.
Question
Does drinking coffee at the same time as taking a calcium supplement hinder the absorption of calcium? What are the guidelines/restrictions in taking calcium supplements with coffee?
Answer
It is well established that intake of caffeine causes calcium to be excreted. For every cup of coffee (equivalent to 150 mg of caffeine), approximately 5 mg of calcium is excreted in the urine. The research on the effects of caffeine on calcium absorption, however, is less conclusive at this time. When that is the case, we tend to err on the side of safety and advise avoiding the use of caffeine with calcium supplements. You may drink coffee at least half hour before or after you have taken your supplement. Don't forget that caffeine is also found in many foods other than coffee such as cola drinks, tea, chocolate, and some cold medication.
Question
What helps to strengthen the teeth and gums? What food contains the nutrients?
Answer
The main nutrient that aid in the formation and maintenance of bones & teeth is calcium. There also has to be sufficient amounts of phosphorus in order for the calcium to be effective. Vitamin D is needed to regulate the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin A and C is also needed - Vitamin A is necessary for growth and bone formation while Vitamin C promotes the healing of bone fractures and bleeding gums. Please refer to the article Focus on Calcium in the Healthy Eating section as well as the resource sections All about Minerals and All about Vitamins for food sources of each of the nutrients.
Question
I used to be quite tall during my late primary school period. But after I went to secondary school, I started to smoke with my friends. And before I knew it, I was addicted to it and found it very hard to quit. But later, I found out that I stopped growing taller. My friends said that smoking stuns growth. Is it true? I have now started to quit and trying to skip and drink as much milk as I can. Both my parents are shorter than me and I am 16.
Answer
I did not find any clear evidence that correlated smoking to stunted growth, but we DO know that mothers who smoke during pregnancy give birth to smaller babies. However, with all the toxic chemicals you are inhaling into your body, smoking can't help your growth. The US CDC article on Facts on Youth Smoking, Health, and Performance sums up the effects of smoking on young people quite well.

"Among young people, the short-term health effects of smoking include damage to the respiratory system, addiction to nicotine, and the associated risk of other drug use. Long-term health consequences of youth smoking are reinforced by the fact that most young people who smoke regularly continue to smoke throughout adulthood. (CDC. Preventing tobacco use among young people---A report of the Surgeon General. 1994, p. 15)".....

Consuming more milk products is good for increasing your calcium intake which helps build strong bones and teeth. Taking more calcium does not neccesarily increase your height, as I mentioned in the above answer, as height is genetically determined. However, you are only 16 years old and will continue to grow until age 21, so do quit smoking and keep up with a healthy diet during this period of critical growth!
Question
I'm in my mid teens. May I know some of the exercises and how many calories it burns? And does lack of calcium causes stunted growth? And what if I start taking more calcium only now, during my mid teens? Will it help me grow faster?
Answer
Check out our activity calculators in the Health Assessment section to find out how many calories various exercise use up.

If you do not take enough calcium now while your bones are growing, your bones will still grow, but they will not be as strong. If you start your adult years with low calcium stored in your bone, you will be at a disadvantage when you start losing calcium as part of the natural aging process later. It would definitely be beneficial for you to start taking more calcium now. It is not too late, and in fact teen years are the best time to eat enough calcium as you can make your bone as strong as it is going to get. Calcium will continue to deposit into bones for most people until the age of 30 to 35 years.

Eat 3-4 servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Don't forget that you need to have a well-balanced diet as well to make sure you are getting enough of ALL nutrients. Read Healthy Eating for Teens if you have not already done that.
Question
I am concerned about women getting brittle bones from not enough calcium. I don't like to milk except in my coffee. How do you get your daily requirement of calcium?
Answer
Your bone hardness peaks at age 35. You can do a lot with your diet to keep your bones hard after age 35 if you consume at least 500 milligrams of calcium per day and participate in a daily weight-bearing exercises. Pregnant, lactating & menopausal women need 1200 milligrams of calcium per day.

You can meet the Recommended Dietary Allowances for Adults of 500 milligrams of calcium from food sources like low-fat milk, dried beans, and dark green leafy vegetables. Milk and milk products are by far the best sources of calcium. Since you don't like drinking milk, try using milk in cooking whenever possible, for example in place of coconut milk in curries, yoghurt dressing on salads, evaporated milk in baking. Other good food sources of calcium are fish with edible bones such as ikan bilis, canned salmon, sardines and mackerel, as well as malt beverages (eg. Horlicks, Nestomalt, etc.)

If you feel that you are not getting enough daily calcium, I would advise you to consider a calcium supplement. If you already have osteoporosis, you will need 1500 milligrams of calcium per day. Check with your doctor for which calcium supplement to take.


Nutrition.com.sg copyright 2000-2014 all rights reserved
Reproducing content on this site, in any form,
is prohibited without written permission.