Throughout every stage of life, calcium is essential to bone health, as the human body requires calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Calcium is also necessary for maintaining spine health and for the proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nerves. While it is best to get calcium from your diet, calcium supplements could be a good option for some people whose diets fall short of the daily recommended calcium requirements.
When a person does not get enough calcium, they are at a significantly increased risk of developing weak bones. Specifically, calcium deficiency in adults can lead to a low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Children who are calcium deficient may not grow properly or reach their full adult height potential.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Calcium varies by age and by sex. Men who are younger than 50 years of age need at least 1,000 mg of Calcium and not more than 2,500 mg of Calcium. Men over 50 and younger than 70 need between 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg of Calcium each day. Men over 71 need between 1,200 mg and 2,000 mg of calcium each day.
On the other hand, it is recommended that women younger than 50 years of age consume at least 1,000 mg of Calcium and not more than 2,500 mg of Calcium each day. Women older than 50 need at least 1,200 mg of Calcium and not more than 2,000 mg of Calcium.
While it is important to get enough Calcium each day, it is equally important not to consume over the recommended limit, as too much Calcium, known as Hypercalcemia, can actually weaken your bones, create kidney stones, and interfere with how your heart and brain work. Some research even suggests that consuming too much calcium could lead to heart disease and colon cancer.
Aside from being caused by consuming too much calcium or Vitamin D supplements, Hypercalcemia can also be caused by cancer, certain medical disorders, and some medications.
The human body is not capable of producing calcium on its own, so calcium must be obtained through other sources. The ideal method of getting the right amount of calcium is through your diet. Dairy products that are rich in calcium include cheese, milk, yogurt, and ice cream. Spinach, broccoli, kale, and fish with edible bones, such as sardines and canned salmon, are also rich in calcium.
The Vitamin D Connection
Consuming enough calcium is only half the battle. In order for your body to actually absorb the calcium it consumes, it also needs vitamin D. Most breakfast cereals and some orange juice are fortified with Vitamin D. You can also get Vitamin D from canned salmon with bones, egg yolks, and sun exposure. For adults, The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D is 600 international units.
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Be sure to speak with your primary care provider or pharmacist prior to adding any supplements to your diet. Considerations such as tolerance to possible side effects and your current medications will need to be taken into consideration. For example, while helpful for bone health, calcium supplements can interact with certain prescription medications, including but not limited to synthetic thyroid hormones, blood pressure medications, bisphosphonates, and antibiotics . Stridewell Tips
Types of Calcium Supplements
Different calcium compounds are used in calcium supplements, with each compound containing varying amounts of elemental calcium. When shopping for Calcium supplements, you will likely notice that calcium is labeled as Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Citrate, Calcium Gluconate, and Calcium Lactate. At 40%, Calcium Carbonate contains the most elemental calcium, while Calcium Lactate contains only 13% of elemental calcium. Calcium citrate and calcium gluconate contain 21% and 13% of elemental calcium respectively. It is also important to consider that some calcium supplements are combined with other vitamins or minerals, such as Vitamin D or Magnesium.
Should You Supplement?
Consistently consuming a healthy and well-balanced diet is a challenge for most busy Americans. Additionally, you may also find that it is very difficult to get enough calcium if you are vegan, have lactose intolerance, limit dairy products, have osteoporosis, receive corticosteroid treatments, or have bowel or digestive diseases that inhibit your ability to absorb calcium. Further, individuals who are on high protein diets or those who consume an excess of sodium may also need calcium supplementation, as large amounts of protein and sodium can cause the human body to excrete calcium. As always, be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether or not you should supplement and which type of calcium supplement is right for you!