Study backs vitamin D and calcium supplements

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Calcium, Vitamin, Essential nutrient

New research suggests that Vitamin D and calcium supplements may be helping Americans approach adequate intake levels.

Writing in the Journal of Nutrition,​ scientists sought to dissect data from the most recently available National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess the impact of supplements as well as food and drink on overall Vitamin D and calcium intake.

The researchers said the study is the first attempt to estimate the impact of all sources on levels of these nutrients using the 2003-2006 NHANES data.

As more than half of the US population use supplements, the scientists said it is vital to include them in estimates of nutrient intake levels. Otherwise there is a risk of overestimating inadequate intake or underestimating the prevalence of excessive consumption.

The results of the research indicate that inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D is still quite widespread despite the increased popularity of supplements.

Age variations

Adequate intake levels are quite high among babies and toddlers but the proportion of teenagers and adults who reach adequate levels is significantly lower.

For example, only 13 per cent of females aged 14 to 18 had adequate intake levels of calcium even when supplement use was taken into account. As a group, elderly men and women are also unlikely to be getting enough vitamin D or calcium.

And this is in spite of quite widespread use of supplements across the US population. A total of 43 per cent of the US population used calcium (2003-2006) and 37 per cent used vitamin D (2005-2006).

Supplement impact

Nevertheless, among certain age groups, supplement use had a big impact on boosting the number of people reaching adequate levels.

For example, 21 per cent of women in the 19-30 age group got enough vitamin D from their diet alone compared to 41 per cent when supplements were added to the equation.

And in the calcium data set, only 22 per cent of men aged 51-70 consumed enough of the nutrient in their food and drink compared to 32 per cent with supplement use added.

Summing up, the scientists behind the research concluded that: “Dietary supplement use is associated with higher prevalence of groups meeting the adequate intake for calcium and vitamin D.”

With more and more people getting their nutrients from supplements they added: “Never before has the inclusion of nutrient intakes from dietary supplements been more salient.”

Source: The Journal of Nutrition
J. Nutr. 140: 817–822, 2010.
Estimation of Total Usual Calcium and Vitamin D Intakes in the United States
Authors: R.L. Bailey, K.W. Dodd, J. A. Goldman, J. J. Gahche, J. T. Dwyer, A. J. Moshfegh, C.T. Sempos, and M. F. Picciano

Related topics: Research

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