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Patient Information Page from The Hormone Foundation: Vitamin D, Calcium, and Bone Health
  The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2009 Vol. 94, No. 2 0
Michael Draper, Ph.D., M.D., Steven T. Harris, M.D., Benjamin Leder, M.D. and Dolores Shoback, M.D.
Why is bone health important?
Bone is a living tissue that is constantly breaking down and being replaced. Throughout life, your body balances the loss of bone with the creation of new bone. You reach your highest bone mass at about age 30. Thereafter, you begin to lose bone mass.
Over time, bone loss can cause osteopenia (low bone mass) and then osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and are more likely to break (fracture). Fractures can cause serious health problems, including disability and premature death. Getting enough vitamin D and calcium is important in keeping your bones healthy and reducing your chances of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Why are vitamin D and calcium important to bone health?
Vitamin D allows your body to absorb calcium. Calcium is necessary for building strong, healthy bones. Without enough vitamin D and calcium, bones may not form properly in childhood and can lose mass, become weak, and break easily in adulthood. Even if you get enough calcium in your diet, your body will not absorb that calcium if you don't get enough vitamin D.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in the body's fatty tissue. People normally get vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, which triggers vitamin D production in the skin.
Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods. In the United States, it is routinely added to milk and infant formula. Other good food sources are egg yolks and some types of fish such as salmon and mackerel. Vitamin D is also available in nutritional supplements.
You probably don't get enough vitamin D if you:
--spend little time in the sun or use a strong sunblock have very dark skin
--are over age 50, when the body is less able to make and use vitamin D efficiently
--have certain medical conditions such as diseases of the digestive system that interfere with fat and vitamin D absorption
--are very overweight, because vitamin D can get "trapped" in body fat and be less available for the needs of the body
What is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral with many functions. Most of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure. Calcium mainly comes from the foods you eat.
Good sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt); calcium-fortified products (foods and beverages with added calcium); canned fish with bones; and green, leafy vegetables. Like vitamin D, calcium is also available in supplements.
You may need extra calcium if you:
--are a post-menopausal woman
--eat few or no dairy products
--have a digestive disease that interferes with nutrient absorption
What should you do with this information?
Talk with your doctor about your intake of vitamin D and calcium, whether you should take supplements, and how much you should take. In addition to getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, regular, weight-bearing exercise helps keep your bones strong and healthy.


Find-an-Endocrinologist: or 1-800-HORMONE (1-800-467-6663)
Osteoporosis Information from the Hormone
National Osteoporosis Foundation:
Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases Resource Center (National Institutes of Health) or 1-800-624-BONE
For more information on how to find an endocrinologist, download free publications, translate this fact sheet into other languages, or make a contribution to The Hormone Foundation, visit or call 1-800-HORMONE (1-800-467-6663). The Hormone Foundation, the public education affiliate of The Endocrine Society (, serves as a resource for the public by promoting the prevention, treatment, and cure of hormone-related conditions. This page may be reproduced non-commercially by health care professionals and health educators to share with patients and students.
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