Do I Need a Calcium Supplement?

We get asked this question- a lot.  Calcium is an important mineral when it comes to bone health, no question about it. Our bone is constantly remodeling. At the age of 30, we reach our peak bone mass. After 30, our bodies are losing more bone than we gain. Calcium is a small component of maintaining solid bone health as we age.  But with so many other beneficial supplements for women, calcium is not one I typically advise taking in supplement form because there could be more harm than good. And we can really only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at one time anyway- many supplement forms come in much higher doses which is where the danger lies in calcium supplementation.

How are calcium supplements potentially harmful to us?

  • Increase in Kidney Stone Risk

In the Woman’s Health Initiative- women taking calcium-vitamin D had a higher risk of developing kidney stones. Dietary calcium (calcium we get from our food) did not have that same increased risk of kidney stones.

  • Increase in Heart Disease

A study published in the Journal of American Heart Association studied calcium supplement use and showed the risk of developing coronary artery calcification was 22% higher in those who used supplements than those who did not take a supplement. [1]

And in another study among calcium supplement users, a high intake of calcium greater than 1400 mg/day has been reported to be associated with higher death rates from all causes, including from Cardiovascular Disease. [2]

Get your calcium from your diet!

Most of us are getting plenty of calcium from our diet and if we aren’t already, we should make it a priority to get calcium naturally from a dietary source, not a supplement form. We should still strive for roughly 1000 mg of calcium daily. Calcium rich foods are dairy products, cheese, almonds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils. If for some reason you aren’t getting enough calcium through these products, consider a LOW DOSE calcium supplement in the form of 500 mg or less just once daily.

[1] Calcium Intake From Diet and Supplements and the Risk of Coronary Artery Calcification and its Progression Among Older Adults: 10‐Year Follow‐up of the Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Anderson, et al.  Originally published11 Oct 2016 of the American Heart Association. 2016;5:e003815

2.Michaelsson K, Melhus H, Warensjo Lemming E, Wolk A, Byberg L. Long term calcium intake and rates of all cause and cardiovascular mortality: community based prospective longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. 2013; 346:f228.Google Scholar