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Dairy Fats and Calcium Absorption

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A common misconception when it comes to eating a proper diet is that fat-free dairy products lack the dairy fats that are necessary for proper calcium absorption. Although it is true that your body does require these types of fats to use calcium, dairy fats are not required for calcium to be absorbed.


Calcium, like other minerals, is water-soluble. What this means is that calcium readily dissolves in watery-type liquids, such as milk, without the help of fats. This is not to say that all vitamins and minerals act this way. For example, fat is required for absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A and E.


As it turns out, calcium absorption has been measured under all different levels of fat intake. The result was that about the same proportion of calcium is absorbed from dairy products – about 30% – no matter how much fat they have.


Dairy Fats and Calcium Utilization

Although dairy fats are not needed for calcium absorption, they do play a critical role in the utilization process of calcium in the body. Vitamin D, which is fat soluble, is required for the utilization of calcium. Therefore, fat is required, albeit indirectly, for calcium to be utilized.


Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the "Sun" vitamin - it is produced naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is also found naturally in a few foods, including the flesh of fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils, which are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are also found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.


To ensure that enough Vitamin D is consumed in the diet, many foods are now artificially fortified with this vitamin. Foods commonly fortified with Vitamin D include milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine.