Calcium in PXE Diets

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- By Fran Benham

Calcium is a mineral necessary to life. It is the basic ingredient of our bones and teeth. Perhaps less widely known are its other roles vital to a healthy life. A small portion of our calcium is found throughout our bodies in blood, muscle and in bodily fluids. It is necessary for blood vessel contraction and expansion, for muscle contraction, hormone and enzyme secretion and for sending messages through the nervous system. A constant level of calcium is necessary to maintain efficient functioning of our bodies. Even our bones require a supply of calcium as they constantly reform and rebuild. The need for calcium intake varies as we age, starting with prenatal development to the end of life.

Robert P. Heaney, MD, states that until relatively recently many physicians recommended that patient with various disorders limit dietary calcium intake. Today with greater scientific understanding of the roles of calcium in the development and maintenance of healthy bodies, such advice is unusual. Indeed, all actively practicing physicians best known to NAPE patients encourage their patients to consume the recommended dietary allowance developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. When asked, most indicated that patients should obtain dietary calcium from a variety of foods, limiting the amount obtained from dairy products, which while high in calcium also are high in saturated fats. PXE patients, prone to cardiology problems, should limit intake of such fats. A list of calcium sources is provided to help us review and improve our own calcium consumption. Our physicians noted that PXE patients should not consume more than the recommended dietary allowance of calcium.

The literature about calcium reveals it to be quite complicated. Not only must we consume an adequate amount for our age and gender, but we must be concerned about its absorption by our bodies. The older we are, the greater that concern. The body uses vitamin D, obtained from food and from skin exposure to sunshine, to assist calcium absorption. PXE patients need to be careful to avoid great sun exposure, but as little as fifteen minutes of such exposure creates substantial vitamin D. We also are informed that weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running and dancing improves calcium absorption, which also can be adversely impacted by high levels of dietary sodium, potassium, protein and alcohol. Moderation and common good sense will guide us well.

Finally, with guidance from trusted medical advisors, the NAPE Board of Directors has voted to update NAPE literature to encourage those diagnosed with PXE to consume the recommended dietary allowance of calcium. As always, NAPE urges patients to discuss medical matters, such as this, with their physicians. Following is the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine recommendations with lists of calcium and vitamin D food sources. At the end of the article are excellent sources of information from which this article was prepared and which provide much additional valuable information.

Recommended Daily Dietary Calcium Intake

Age, Male and Female

Calcium per day (mg/day)

0-6 months

    210

7-12 months

    270

1-3 years

    500

4-8 years

    800

9-13 years

  1300

14-18 years

  1300

19-50 years

  1000

50+ years

  1200

Click here for Food Sources of Calcium table (pdf)

Recommended Daily Dietary Vitamin D Intake  

Age, Male and Female 

Vitamin D (I/U's Per Day) 

1-13 years 

   200 

14-18 years 

   200 

19-50 years 

   200 

51-70 years 

   400 

71+ years 

   600 

Click here for Foods Sources for Vitamin D table (pdf)

Information for this article has been taken from personal correspondence, from Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, Chapter Nine, by Walter Willet (Simon & Schuster, 2001), and from the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements fact sheets at
http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium.asp and http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp