Do I need vitamin and mineral supplements?
During the menopause, women's needs change as more bone gets broken down than is made, causing thinning and possible osteoporosis. In most women, the greatest bone loss occurs during the year before menopause until two years after the final menstrual period. Some women loose bone even more rapidly, even as much as 3-5% a year. (British Menopause Society)
During this stage of life women need more Calcium and vitamin D, and recently the role of Vitamin K has become more understood in terms of bone health. If a diagnosis of Osteoporosis has been made, certain medications may also be prescribed to slow down bone breakdown.
Calcium requirements for women during the menopause and after are 1000-1200 mg a day. It is hard to get this much from food alone, so Calcium supplements are usually helpful. Woman Health Initiative study in 2013 showed that women taking HRT together with 1000 mg/day Calcium and 400 iu/day Vitamin D had greater bone protection than women taking HRT alone.
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of Calcium and Phosphates. Only 10% of Vitamin D comes from foods such as oily fish and egg yolk and fortified foods such as fortified beards and cereals but over 90% of the vitamin D we need is generated by sunlight on our skin. In the Northern Hemisphere we don't get enough sunlight during the winter months and it is becoming widely recognised that many people are deficient which can be a problem as Vitamin D is necessary for bone health.
Although we should increase our intake of Vitamin D rich foods, I also recommend supplementing with Vitamin D. The recommended dosage ranges from 10-20 mcg, (400-800 IU) although higher doses may be recommended if blood tests has shown Vitamin D deficiency or there is an Osteoporosis diagnosis.
Magnesium is necessary for the conversion of Vitamin D into a more usable form for the body. As with calcium, magnesium is stored in our bones and we need an adequate daily intake of magnesium through food or supplements to stop the magnesium stored in our bones from being taken up by the body. Calcium and Magnesium need to be in balance and most good food supplements have the right amount of both.