Calcium and vitamin D

Novartis Found Symp. 2007:282:123-38; discussion 138-42, 212-8.


Calcium is required for normal growth and development as well as maintenance of the skeleton. Vitamin D is also essential for intestinal calcium absorption and plays a central role in maintaining calcium homeostasis and skeletal integrity. In addition, both micronutrients have important roles in non-skeletal-related physiological processes. Of concern, significant proportions of some population groups fail to achieve the recommended calcium intakes in a number of western countries. Furthermore, while cutaneous biosynthesis upon exposure of skin to ultraviolet B light is the major source of vitamin D for most people, this does not occur during winter time. Thus, there is an increased reliance on dietary sources during winter months to help maintain adequate vitamin D status. Since vitamin D is found naturally only in a limited number of foods, the usual dietary vitamin D intake by many European populations is not sufficient to maintain adequate vitamin D status. This paper will briefly review these important issues together with consideration of the potential role for supplementation with calcium and vitamin D in terms of improving their intakes in the population. It will also focus on the issues of efficacy as well as safety considerations of supplements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents* / administration & dosage
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents* / physiology
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • Calcium / deficiency
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Pregnancy
  • Seasons
  • Sex Factors
  • Sunlight
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin D / biosynthesis
  • Vitamin D / pharmacology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium