PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Well, calcium and vitamin D can help maintain the bone density that you have, and there are some studies that show that there can even be a small increase in bone density with full calcium and vitamin D supplementation. Certainly, if you don't have enough calcium and vitamin D, then you're assured of bone loss.
DAVID R. MARKS, MD: How common is that?
PAULA RACKOFF, MD: Actually, it's quite common. The average American male or female only gets about 700 mg of calcium in their diet, so calcium deficiency is quite common. Vitamin D deficiency in young people is less common because we actually only need about 15 minutes of sun exposure for the active form of vitamin D to get into our circulation. When we're older, beyond 55 years of age, that's when vitamin D deficiency becomes more common.
DAVID R. MARKS, MD: How can this be so when we have all these calcium-enriched foods and a lot of advertising about calcium supplementation? Why is it that people aren't getting enough in their diet?
PAULA RACKOFF, MD: I think it depends where you live, and how well aware you are of the calcium-rich foods. I think much of America is still being fed fast-food diets, and there isn't a lot of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in those foods.
DAVID R. MARKS, MD: So what kind of foods should people be eating?
PAULA RACKOFF, MD: For calcium, it's really dairy products, juices that are fortified in calcium, and green, leafy vegetables. For vitamin D it's vitamin D fortified milk, egg yolks, and salt water fish.
DAVID R. MARKS, MD: What is the number of milligrams that a person should get?