Adequate intake of calcium helps people build strong bones as children and minimize bone loss through osteoporosis as older adults. The bones gain and lose calcium continuously as the body balances its needs for stored calcium in the bones with the need for calcium in the blood and body fluids to help with muscle contraction, blood clotting, nerve impulses, hormone secretion and enzyme activation. Calcium also may help manage weight and blood pressure and help prevent diabetes and colon cancer according to Eleanor Whitney and Sharon Rolfes in the book "Understanding Nutrition."
The U.S. government has regulated food fortification for more than five decades. The FDA supports adding specific nutrients such as calcium to food when a nutritional deficiency exists in the population, to restore nutrient losses due to processing, to improve the quality of a replacement food, or to balance the nutrient content of food. The FDA also regulates calcium and other fortified food information on product packages.
To "fortify" a product means to add a missing nutrient or supplement a nutrient present in an insignificant amount. According to the FDA, a "calcium-fortified" food must have at least 10 percent of the daily value of calcium added. The daily value of calcium indicates a reference amount developed by the FDA for requirements of adults and children over 4 years old.
Foods commonly fortified with calcium include orange juice, other fruit and vegetable juices, soy milk, rice milk, tofu and some grains.
To meet daily calcium requirements, most people need the equivalent of at least three servings of milk or milk products. But some people cannot drink milk because of lactose intolerance. Others choose not to drink milk because of a preference or a restricted diet. Knowing about alternate products fortified with calcium can help these people meet their nutritional needs. For instance, calcium-fortified food can help a person with a vegan diet who avoids all meat and dairy products to meet calcium recommendations within her dietary constraints.
Calcium fortified food information provides a service to consumers who read labels to learn about the nutrient content of a food or to compare similar foods. Two of the Healthy People 2010 objectives established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services involve meeting recommendations for calcium in the diet of Americans and reducing the prevalence of osteoporosis, according to Whitney and Rolfes. Osteoporosis afflicts more than 25 million people in the United States, mostly older women.