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Lack of Calcium, Vitamins D and A can Cause Debilitating Disorders

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We eat food and drink fluids because our body needs nutrients. Vitamins and minerals are included in the essential nutrients the human body requires. However, some of these essential nutrients seem to be neglected by adults. According to the Statistics Canada, most Canadians lack calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A. While a lack in the recommended intake of these nutrients does not automatically cause deficiencies, the risk to develop certain disorders remains.

Calcium is an essential nutrient that primarily contributes to bone development. The mineral keeps the bones and teeth strong and healthy, regulates muscle contractions including heartbeat, and maintains normal blood clotting. In a more specific approach to the bones, calcium can only help grow bone mass during adolescence. After that, adults need to have an adequate amount of calcium daily to prevent the decrease in bone mass. The said decrease occurs when the body extracts the stored calcium in the bones.



“If we don’t get enough, our bones will become more fragile and weak. And 99 percent of all the calcium in our body is actually in our bones. Since our bones are a living tissue – they’re alive and constantly breaking down and releasing minerals – they’re depositing calcium to make new bone. This is why we really need that calcium intake,” said Andrea D’Ambrosio, a registered dietitian in Ontario, Canada.

The remaining one percent of calcium in the body has active roles in cell signaling, nerve function, certain enzyme activities, ion transport across cell membranes, and sending and receiving neurotransmitters. The mineral can also help the body conduct electricity as an electrolyte, which causes decreased absorption of other minerals such as iron and zinc. People should not be worried because the decrease is not enough to cause deficiencies. Health experts recommend taking other mineral supplements with two hours interval, before or after, calcium food or drink sources.

Sufficient amounts of calcium in the body require an adequate amount of vitamin D. The vitamin acts as a regulator to maintain the right calcium balance in the skeletal system. It allows absorption of the mineral from the intestines, promotes bone resorption in the bones, and maintains the balance between calcium and phosphate levels in the bone formation. While vitamin D has major key roles in bone development, studies suggest that it can also reduce the risk of heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and certain types of cancers. Chronic exposure to inadequate vitamin D and insufficient calcium intakes can lead to the following health conditions:

1. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bone thins, causing brittleness, which often leads to bone fractures. Calcium deficiency in the bloodstream forces the body to extract stored calcium in the bones, triggering osteoporosis., 

2. Rickets is a bone-softening and weakening condition in children who are chronically exposed to vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is required by the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from the intestines. Without vitamin D, calcium levels are difficult to maintain in the developing bones of children.

3. Osteomalacia is the version of rickets in adults. The cause of this condition is severe vitamin D deficiency.



Intake of calcium and vitamin D are the most common treatment to correct these bone problems. Calcium can easily be obtained from dairy products including milk, but if the person suffers from lactose intolerance, the alternative sources include broccoli, canned fish with bones, and soy products processed with calcium. For vitamin D, fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel, beef liver, egg yolks, cheese, and food products are fortified with the vitamin.

The other nutrient among the top three inadequate intakes is vitamin A or retinol. Like vitamin D, retinol is a fat-soluble vitamin wherein any excess will be stored in the liver. The main function of vitamin A is to keep the eyes, skin, and immune system healthy. Vitamin A deficiency or hypovitaminosis is rare considering it can be found in both animal and plant sources. But such deficiency can cause preventable blindness in children. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 250 million preschool kids have a deficiency in vitamin A, while an approximately 250,000 to 500,000 children with retinol deficiency become blind every year, with half of them dying after 12 months of losing eyesight.



Aside from eyesight, vitamin A helps with cell growth and development, maintains healthy neurons, reduces inflammation, and decreases cell damage caused by free radicals. Food sources, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, cheese, eggs, and chickens contain good amounts of retinol.

Recommended daily intake of calcium is 500 mg for people under two years of age, while it is 1,100 mg for people two years or older. For vitamin D, children younger than two should get five micrograms, and ten micrograms for people two years and older. Daily intake of retinol should be 400 retinol equivalents in people younger than two years of age, while  it is 1,000 for people two years and older.

[메디컬리포트=​Ralph Chen 기자]

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