Nutrition basics (20)
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet
- Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes
- Added sugar: Don't get sabotaged by sweeteners
- see all in Nutrition basics
Healthy diets (12)
- DASH diet: Tips for dining out
- DASH diet: Tips for shopping and cooking
- DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure
- see all in Healthy diets
Healthy cooking (14)
- Meatless meals: The benefits of eating less meat
- Healthy cooking for 1 or 2
- Beans and other legumes: Types and cooking tips
- see all in Healthy cooking
Healthy menus and shopping strategies (13)
- Free range and other meat and poultry terms
- Cuts of beef: A guide to the leanest selections
- Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid: A sample menu
- see all in Healthy menus and shopping strategies
Nutritional supplements (3)
- Herbal supplements: What to know before you buy
- Calcium and calcium supplements: Achieving the right balance
- Supplements: Nutrition in a pill?
Calcium and calcium supplements: Achieving the right balance
Calcium is important for bone health. See how much calcium you need and how to get it.By Mayo Clinic staff
Calcium is important for optimal bone health throughout your life. Although diet is the best way to get calcium, calcium supplements may be an option if your diet falls short.
Before you consider calcium supplements, be sure you understand how much calcium you need, the pros and cons of calcium supplements, and which type of supplement to choose.
The benefits of calcium
Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly.
Some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may have benefits beyond bone health, perhaps protecting against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. But evidence about such health benefits is not definitive.
The risks of too little calcium
If you don't get enough calcium, you could face health problems related to weak bones:
- Children may not reach their full potential adult height.
- Adults may have low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
Many Americans don't get enough calcium in their diets. Children and adolescent girls are at particular risk, but so are adults age 50 and older.
How much calcium you need depends on your age and sex. Note that the upper limit in the chart represents the safe boundary — it's not how much you should aim to get. If you exceed the upper limit, you may increase your risk of health problems related to excessive calcium.
|Calcium: Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults|
|Men||Daily RDA||Daily upper limit|
|19-50 years||1,000 mg||2,500 mg|
|51-70 years||1,000 mg||2,000 mg|
|71 and older||1,200 mg||2,000 mg|
|19-50 years||1,000 mg||2,500 mg|
|51 and older||1,200 mg||2,000 mg|
Calcium and vitamin D
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. For this reason, some calcium supplements contain vitamin D. A few foods naturally contain small amounts of vitamin D, such as canned salmon with bones, and egg yolks. You can also get vitamin D from fortified foods and sun exposure. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 international units (15 micrograms) a day for most adults.Next page
(1 of 2)
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed July 3, 2012.
- Dietary Reference Intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Institute of Medicine. http://www.iom.edu/vitamind. Accessed July 3, 2012.
- Calcium and vitamin D: Important at every age. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition/default.asp. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Calcium. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Calcium quick facts. Office of Dietary Supplements. http://ods.od.nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/Calcium-QuickFacts.pdf. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Duyff RL. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons; 2012:140.
- Rosen HN. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation in osteoporosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed July 16, 2012.
- Osteoporosis: Handout on health. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/osteoporosis_hoh.asp. Accessed July 17, 2012.
- Hwang C, et al. Micronutrient deficiencies in inflammatory bowel disease: From A to zinc. Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In press. Accessed July 17, 2012.
- What people with celiac disease need to know about osteoporosis. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Conditions_Behaviors/celiac.asp. Accessed July 17, 2012.
- Straub D. Calcium supplementation in clinical practice: A review of forms, doses, and indications. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2007;22:286.
- Reid IR, et al. Calcium supplementation: Bad for the heart? Heart. 2012;98:895.
- Bolland MJ, et al. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: Meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;341:3691.
- Bolland MJ, et al. Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: Reanalysis of the Women's Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. BMJ. In press. Accessed July 17, 2012.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 17, 2012.
- Dietary supplements standards. U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention. http://www.usp.org/dietary-supplements/overview. Accessed July 31, 2012.
- About ConsumerLab.com. ConsumerLab.com. http://www.consumerlab.com/aboutcl.asp. Accessed July 31, 2012.
- Calcium and Cancer Prevention: Strengths and Limits of the Evidence. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/calcium. Accessed July 31, 2012.