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Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Calcium keeps your bones and muscles—including your heart—healthy and strong.
People who don't get enough calcium and vitamin D throughout life have an increased chance of having thin and brittle bones (osteoporosis) in their later years. Thin and brittle bones break easily and can lead to serious injuries. That's why it's important to get enough calcium and vitamin D as a child and as an adult. It helps keep your bones strong as you get older and protects against possible breaks.
Your body also uses vitamin D to help your muscles absorb calcium and work well. If your muscles don't get enough calcium, then they can cramp, hurt, or feel weak. You may have long-term (chronic) muscle aches and pains. Getting enough vitamin D helps prevent these problems.
Children who don't get enough vitamin D may not grow as much as others their age. They also have a chance of getting a rare disease called rickets, which causes weak bones.
It's important to take vitamin D along with calcium. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium.
Vitamin D recommendations vary from province to province. Talk with your doctor about how much vitamin D you need.
Recommended calcium intake (milligrams a day)
Recommended vitamin D intake (international units a day)
Infants 0–6 months
Infants 7–12 months
Males 51–70 years
Females 51–70 years
71 and older
Most Canadians do not get enough vitamin D from food or sun and need supplements. Alberta Health services recommends:
Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of supplements are right for your child. Although breastfed babies get the best possible nutrition, they need vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve their health. Vitamin D for babies is usually a liquid supplement that you add to a bottle of breast milk with a dropper or drip into your baby's mouth.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as other women their age.
Health Canada and Osteoporosis Canada recommend that Canadian adults take daily vitamin D supplements. footnote 1
Since we can't get enough vitamin D from food to meet our body's needs, Alberta Health Services recommends that all healthy Albertans take a vitamin D supplement. Some people (like those at risk of osteoporosis) need higher amounts of vitamin D.
Many foods are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and your body uses sunshine to make its own vitamin D. From ages 9 through 18, girls need extra calcium to meet the daily recommended intake. If they can't get enough calcium from foods, they may need supplements.
Many Canadians don't get enough vitamin D from food and sunshine only. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it's more important to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about how you can get the right amount through supplements and what you eat.
Things that reduce how much vitamin D your body makes include:
Here are some ways to get calcium and vitamin D in your diet.
Calcium is in foods such as:
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Foods that contain vitamin D include:
Some people may need to take a calcium supplement with vitamin D. Health Canada and Osteoporosis Canada recommend that Canadian adults take daily vitamin D supplements.footnote 1
It is possible to get too much calcium and vitamin D. Older women who take calcium supplements need to be careful not to take too much.
Getting too much calcium can cause:
Getting too much vitamin D can:
Calcium and vitamin D may also interact with other medicines. Some drug interactions are dangerous.
Before you start taking calcium and/or vitamin D, tell your doctor about all of the medicines and natural health products you take. Also tell your doctor about all of your current medical problems.
The amount of calcium and vitamin D you get every day from all sources (including food, sunshine, and supplements) should not be more than the amount shown in the table below.
"Upper level intake" does not mean that most people need this amount or should try to get it. It means this is the highest amount of calcium or vitamin D that is safe to take.
Upper level calcium intake (milligrams a day)
Upper level vitamin D intake (international units a day)
51 and older
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have the same upper level intake of calcium and vitamin D as other women their age.
CitationsHealth Canada (2010). Vitamin D and calcium: Updated dietary reference intakes. Available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php.
Adaptation Date: 11/27/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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