Calcium Supplment: To Take or Not to Take?

According to research, taking calcium, with or without vitamin D, appears to modestly increase your risk of a heart attack, and possibly a stroke. Eating more calcium-rich foods doesn’t seem to cause these issues. If you are taking calcium, you may wish to discuss this with your doctor. To look at the full range of treatments for weak bones, see the Consumer Reports information on osteoporosis.

Bottom Line: Reach your calcium needs by consuming calcium-rich foods/beverages.  If you are unsure how to meet your goal contact a registered/licensed dietitian-nutritionist.  Certain individuals may need to take a calcium supplement in order to meet their needs. If this is the case, take no more than 500 mg of calcium at once (this is approximately the upper level that your body is able to absorb at one time.)

How Much Do You Need?

Age — Calcium per day

1 – 3 year old 500 mg

4 – 8 year old 800 mg

9 – 18 year old 1300 mg

19 – 50 year old 1000 mg

51 – 70 year old 1200 mg

> 70 year old 1200 mg

Pregnant and Nursing Women 1000 – 1300 mg

** The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for calcium is 2,500 milligrams daily from food and supplements.

(Duyff 2006).

Calcium Content of Selected Foods

1 cup milk or fortified nondairy milk = 300 mg

1 cup fortified juice = 300 mg

1 cup yogurt = 300 mg

1.5 oz. cheddar cheese = 300 mg

2 oz. American, Mozzerella, and Feta cheese = 300 mg

1 ½ cup cottage cheese = 300 mg

3 cups cooked or 6 cups raw broccoli = 300 mg

½ cup chickpeas = 40 mg

½ cup Navy beans = 60 mg

½ cup firm tofu = 250 mg

Orange = 50 mg

1 oz. (24) almonds = 80 mg

Sources: 

Sayburn A. 2011. Calcium supplements and heart risk: New fears

Pros and cons of vitamins. Sept. 2010. Consumer Reports. Retrieved from Health.org http://news.consumerreports.org/health/2011/04/calcium-supplements-and-heart-risk-new-fears.html November 7, 2011Calcium 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]

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