Investigation into the Dietary Intakes of Calcium and Vitamin D in Female University Students
(2015) Investigation into the Dietary Intakes of Calcium and Vitamin D in Female University Students, no. 33.
Background: Calcium and Vitamin D are two nutrients that are essential as part of a healthy diet. Intakes of calcium and vitamin D during skeletal maturation throughout adolescence and young adulthood can determine peak bone mass in later life. A low peak bone mass can increase the risk of suffering from poor bone health, such as the bone disease osteoporosis, in later life. Osteoporosis is a major health concern within the United Kingdom, with over three million people suffering from this disease. Women are more at risk of developing osteoporosis due to their generally smaller bones and the accelerated bone loss they experience post menopause. Therefore, it is particularly important that women achieve the highest peak bone mass they possibly can. Hence, it is essential that women, particularly, adolescents and young adults, meet the dietary recommendations set for calcium and vitamin D. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey found a high number of women with calcium intakes below the lower reference nutrient intake and a high number of females with plasma vitamin concentrations below the lower threshold for vitamin D adequacy. Aim: The aim of this present study was to assess the dietary intakes of female university students aged nineteen and over. Materials and Methods: Participants off this study were asked to fill in a diet diary lasting over a period of four days, using household measures to describe portion sizes and including at least one weekend day. This information was then put into NetWisp, a dietary analysis computer programme to convert food consumed to nutrients intakes. Statistical analysis was then carried out using one sample t-tests to compare mean intakes calcium and vitamin D to recommended intakes and the results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. In addition a paired t-test was carried out to assess whether the inclusion of dietary supplements affected mean intakes of either nutrient. Results: The results of this study indicate that calcium intake was significantly higher than the reference nutrient intake [p=0.026 ] and vitamin D intakes were significantly lower than suggested intakes [p=0.00].. No significance was found between calcium and vitamin D intakes of this study and that of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey [p=0.063 and 0.974 respectively].In addition no significant difference was found with the inclusion of dietary supplements [p= 0.20 for calcium and 0.17 for vitamin D]. Conclusion: In this group of well educated, healthy women calcium intakes were found to be adequate. However, vitamin D intakes of this group were lower than suggested requirements. These results, in general, were in agreement with the results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Although, there was a higher proportion of females with intakes below the lower reference nutrient intake found within the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which may be explained due to different sample populations. The results gathered indicate that the young adult females of this study, and throughout the UK, despite their good intakes of calcium, may be at risk of poor bone health, due to their low intakes of vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. This information could help direct public health strategies aimed at reducing the number of people suffering from osteoporosis and may increase the awareness amongst females, particularly adolescents and young adults, that ensuring adequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D could reduce their risk of osteoporosis in later life. Key words: Calcium, Vitamin D, Diet, Females, Bone Mass, Osteoporosis