Ninety-nine percent of calcium is located in the skeleton for bone structure and strength, while one percent is found in the soft tissues, extracellular fluid and plasma for metabolic and regulatory roles.
Specifically, calcium is consumed for the construction, formation and maintenance of bones and teeth, blood clotting and wound healing, muscle contraction, maintenance of cells and connective tissues, blood pressure control and nerve transmission, among others.
According to the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes (RENI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) in 2002, calcium requirement differs according to population groups and sex.[pq]The male and female adults 19 – 64 years old need 750 milligrams (mg) per day of calcium, while those 65 years old and over need 800mg/day.[/pq]
The Philippines has relatively lower recommendation values for calcium than the United States, Australia and other Southeast Asian countries.
Dried dilis, canned fish, sardines, some green vegetables and legumes, seeds and nuts, snails and mollusks are the richest sources of calcium in the diet. On the other hand, milk, yogurt and cheddar cheese have the highest absorbable calcium.
The 7th National Nutrition Survey (NNS) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) revealed that mean one-day per capita calcium intake is at 42.3% of the RENI and that calcium as the least- consumed nutrient in the Filipino diet.
There was a drop in the proportion of households meeting the RENI for calcium from 16.0% in 2003 to 11.5% in 2008.
The survey further showed that six to twelve year-old children had the lowest consumption of calcium according to population groups, with 0.26 grams per day.
Pregnant women had the highest mean one-day calcium consumption among population groups.
In general, the estimated average recommendation for calcium was not met and registered very low proportions across population groups at around 9.8%.
Fish was shown to be the primary source of calcium in the Filipino diet, followed by rice and cereals, vegetables and milk and milk products.
Milk intake, as an excellent source of dietary calcium, was also shown to be poor except in infants.
Calcium intake can be increased through increased consumption of fish and milk in the diet, as well as promoting cheaper sources of calcium. Calcium-fortified fruit juices and drinks are also good sources of calcium particularly for people with lactose intolerance.
Promotion of adequate calcium intake throughout the lifespan is strongly encouraged to meet the recommended intakes especially in infants after six months.
Everyone must take part in improving the calcium intake, particularly during the growing years to avoid calcium deficiency-related diseases such as osteoporosis.
For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Tel/Fax Num: 8372934 and 8373164; email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; FNRI-DOST website: http://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph.; FNRI Facebook page: facebook.com/FNRI-DOST; FNRI Twitter account: twitter.com/FNRI-DOST
– Jund Rian A. Doringo