Adequate calcium intake is the most important factor in prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. It has been observed that our calcium intake rarely meets with the recommended values. Some good sources of calcium are: milk and milk products, green leafy vegetables, fish like sardines and salmon, soybean, tofu (soybean’s paneer), sesame seeds and figs.
Certain food items like leafy vegetables (especially amaranthus and spinach) are rich in oxalate which binds with calcium to form calcium oxalate and thus makes the calcium unavailable for the body. However, calcium from various dairy products, soybean and other vegetables (broccoli, kale and artichokes) is very well absorbed.
Food fortification is another way to ensure adequate calcium intake. Nowadays calcium is added in various processed food items like milk, fruit juices, soybean milk and breads. Some sort of calcium supplement can also be used to correct the calcium deficiency. This is particularly beneficial in the early post menopausal phase. It is essential to check the bioavaibility of calcium compound present in the supplement. However, there are certain risk factors associated with high calcium intake. They include:
- Deficiency of iron and other divalent cations due to decreased absorption.
- Urinary tract stones in susceptible individuals.
- Hypercalcaemia from extremely high intake (more than 4000 mg/day)
Daily recommended calcium intake varies from country to country. While the recommended calcium intake is about 400-600 mg/day in India, the recommended intake in the U.S. is 1000 mg/day.
Some drugs like steroids, antihypertensive drugs (calcium channel blockers) interfere with the calcium absorption and hence may further deteriorate the situation. Therefore, supplements are usually recommended if one is taking such drugs.