We all need calcium. It helps maintain healthy bones, and is also good for muscles, nerves and heart health.
But be cautious that you don’t take in too much calcium, said Dr. C. Brian Arthurs, a family medicine physician at Mon Health Wedgewood Primary Care.
“Adults who don’t get enough calcium are at risk for osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures,” said Dr. Arthurs. “Many people take calcium supplements for bone health. But keep an eye on how much you’re consuming through diet and supplements. Taking more calcium than you need won’t provide added benefits and may lead to health problems.”
There’s debate about the benefits and risks of calcium supplements, which are typically taken with vitamin D to maintain bone health (vitamin D aids calcium absorption).
Some research shows that excess calcium can heighten risk of kidney stones and heart attacks. But the evidence of heart attack risk is not definitive, Dr. Arthurs said.
The National Cancer Institute says some studies show that calcium may play a role in preventing one or more types of cancer, including colon cancer. Other research suggests high calcium consumption may increase risk of prostate cancer, though that remains uncertain.
Conflicting studies have created a lot of confusion. Dr. Arthurs said the best course is to take the recommended amount of calcium:
- Women up to age 50 should get 1,000 milligrams a day. Those over 50 should take in 1,200 milligrams.
- Men should take 1,000 milligrams daily, and increase to 1,200 milligrams at age 71.
Calcium supplements are often recommended for post-menopausal women, who are at risk for osteoporosis because of decreased estrogen production.
- Aim to get the calcium you need through diet. Check food and supplement labels to know how much calcium you’re consuming. If you aren’t getting the recommended amount through diet, use supplements to make up a shortfall.
- Your body can only absorb about 500 milligrams at a time. Avoid taking supplements containing higher doses.
Foods high in calcium include:
- Dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt
- Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale
- Calcium-fortified foods and drinks, including cereal, fruit juices and milk substitutes
Don’t forget kids need calcium, too. The recommended amount for children and teens is:
- 700 milligrams daily for ages 1 to 3
- 1,000 milligram for ages 4-8
- 1,300 milligrams for ages 9-18
To schedule an appointment at Mon Health Wedgewood Primary Care, call 304-599-9400.
Emily K. Gallagher
Mon Health Medical Center