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Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency: What You Need to Know

Remember the ads several years ago that had famous athletes drinking milk and were left with the famous milk mustache? At the time, it might have seemed silly that an athlete was drinking milk instead of water or a sports drink, but the truth is milk is loaded with essential vitamins that our body needs to function properly. So what happens if you are lactose intolerant or don't like the taste of milk? How can you still meet the daily recommended intake and avoid a calcium or vitamin D deficiency? Lauren Furuta, MOE, RD, shares some helpful tips:

In addition to being a pediatric dietitian, I am the mother of two adolescent athletes. One of my kids is lactose intolerant (his body has trouble digesting lactose, a sugar in milk), while the other has recently decreased his milk intake. I know that vitamin D deficiency among some of our adults and kids is on the rise. Here are a few reasons why I should be concerned:

Who is at risk of calcium and vitamin D deficiency?

  • Female athletes in sports that focus on lean physique (see recent post: Female Athlete Triad)
  • Kids who choose to drink soda, juice and sports beverages instead of milk
  • Kids who are inactive or don’t spend time outside for sun exposure
  • Kids who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk

Why should we care about calcium and vitamin D for our athletes?

  • Vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium, and we depend on these nutrients for strong bones (adolescence is when we build our bone mass)
  • Strong bones help prevent bone injuries
  • Lack of calcium in our diet forces the body to take calcium from bones to keep blood levels normal, which weakens bones
  • Calcium is a key nutrient for muscle contraction, nerve transmission and hormone secretion (all of which are crucial functions for athletes)

What can you do to keep your athlete’s calcium and vitamin D levels healthy?

  • Ask for a vitamin D level on your child the next time they get their blood drawn
  • Encourage calcium and vitamin D rich food and fluids 3-4 times per day
  • Ask your provider if they think your child might be a candidate for a calcium and/or vitamin d supplement

Kid requirements for calcium and vitamin D each day:

Kids 4-8 years 1,000 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D
Kids 9-18 years 1,300 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D

 

Food and fluid sources for calcium and vitamin D:

Food Sources Serving Size Calcium (mg) Vitamin D (IU)
Dairy Products
Milk - whole, 2%, nonfat 8oz. 300 100
Yogurt, plain or fruit-fortified with vitamin D 8oz. 250-450 100
Other Fortified Beverages and Foods
Calcium fortified soy or rice milk 8oz. 300-350 100
Calcium fortified orange juice 8oz. 300 140
Fortified cereals 1 cup 100-1000 Variable

 

Other resources:

The Office of Dietary Supplements website provides a comprehensive list of foods containing vitamin D and calcium.

Written by: Lauren Furuta, MOE, RD, Clinical Nutrition, Children’s Hospital Colorado. To find out more about nutrition tips, read our sports nutrition articles, or schedule an appointment at 720-777-6600. We are happy to consult with parents or referring providers before a patient is seen at Children’s Colorado.

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