NUTRITION CORNER: 90% of Filipino households does not meet required calcium intake

Nearly 90 percent of Filipino households does not meet the required calcium intake, a study conducted in 2008 by the Food and Nutrition Reasearch Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) revealed. The study noted that only one in every 10 Filipino households meets the average requirement for calcium and that their consumption of milk and milk products greatly decreased from 49 grams per capita per day in 2003 to 42 grams per capita per day in 2008.

Aside from milk and milk products, dried herbs, cheese, sesame seeds, tofu, almonds, flax seeds, dark, green leafy vegetables such as  turnips, mustards, malunggay leaves, jute (saluyot) leaves, and alugbati; and fish like dilis and sardines and tamban or tunsoy, shrimps or alamang, are rich sources of calcium.

Health authorities say that yogurt, milk and milk products contain highly absorbable calcium  and other important nutritional elements such as protein, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.

Protein helps in the building and repairing of body tissues; Vitamin A is necessary for better eyesight and healthy skin; riboflavin helps in the normal functioning of the nervous system; Vitamion B12 aids in the maturation of red blood cells; and phosphorus is responsible for the development of proper bones and strong teeth.

Adequate calcium, along with magnesium and Vitamins D and K2, contribute to healthy bones, decrease bone breakdown and help prevent osteoporosis later in life.

According to US National Library of Medicine, osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to fracture. Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to replace the existing bone with a new bone, when too much existing bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both.

If one has an inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, or his body does not absorb enough calcium from his diet, bone breakdown occurs because the body must use the calcium stored in bones to maintain urgent biological functions such as generating a heart beat, nerve and muscle.

Researchers have identified several factors that increase the risk of developing osteoporosis such as being female, thin, inactive, of advanced age, smoking, alcohol, and having a family history of osteoporosis.

Studies conducted showed that an increased calcium intake lowers blood pressure and the risk of hypertension. The study “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, as reported by the National Institutes of Health  examined the effects of three different diets on high blood pressure: a controlled typical diet, a high-fruits-and-vegetables diet, and a combination “DASH” diet – high in fruits, vegetables and calcium. The combination “DASH” diet with increased calcium, made a biggest impact on decreased blood pressure.

Some studies also suggest that increased intakes of dietary and supplemental calcium are associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer.

It is therefore important that we include milk and milk products and other calcium rich foods and green leafy vegetables in our daily diet to meet our calcium requirement for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, and prevent osteoporosis in later years.#