For decades, women and older adults were advised to take calcium supplements to help maintain bone strength. More recently, however, concerns have been raised about the possibility that calcium supplements may increase the risk for kidney stones and cardiovascular disease. A recent randomized controlled trial published in the journal Gut showed that people taking calcium supplements were more prone to colon polyps. People who take calcium supplements may also be troubled with constipation.
Older People Take Calcium Supplements More:
Now data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that many older people take calcium supplements (Bone, June, 2018). Quite a few are taking doses higher than experts recommend. The analysis covered data collected between 1999 and 2014.
The researchers wanted to know whether some of these individuals were exceeding the recommended dose. Only a few were taking more than the upper limit of 2,000 mg of calcium daily from pills. However, many people were swallowing at least 1,000 mg of calcium supplements a day. That is considered the Estimated Average Requirement. The EAR should take into account calcium from foods and beverages as well. Women and older people were most likely to take at least the EAR, perhaps because their doctors have suggested supplements.
Calcium from the Diet?
People who take calcium supplements are often getting a decent amount of calcium from their diets as well. The investigators note that calcium from the diet is not linked to adverse reactions and may even reduce the risk of fractures, high blood pressure and kidney stones.
Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, cheese, kefir and yogurt, especially Greek-style yogurt. Soy products such as tofu and green leafy vegetables such as turnip greens, Chinese cabbage and kale are also rich in calcium. Canned sardines and salmon (with bones) are an excellent nondairy source. Traditional corn tortillas are a strong source of calcium in Mexican diets because the corn to make masa is treated with calcium before it is ground.
People who rarely get eat such food sources of calcium may need to take calcium supplements. Keeping a food diary to determine how much calcium one is consuming makes sense. That will allow a person to calculate how much more calcium she should get from supplements.