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Do I Need to Take Calcium Supplements?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Specific groups of people benefit from calcium supplements, especially if they cannot get calcium as part of their regular diet. Other groups of people do not benefit from calcium supplements. In fact, supplementing the diet with calcium supplements may do more harm than good in some cases.

For many, a diet rich in dairy products provides more than enough calcium, and as long as the dairy products contain some fat, as in 1 or 2% milk, the calcium should be readily absorbed. Nonfat milk, also called skim milk, does not contain enough fat to absorb calcium efficiently. Instead, low fat milk is recommended for adults and children over the age of 5.

Some believe that almost all people should take a calcium supplement, or eat a diet high in calcium. Certainly, children need adequate calcium supply, which helps build healthy bones and lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. Pregnant women also need calcium, and nursing mothers tend to require the most.

Women in their late forties to early fifties should, as well, take calcium supplements if they do not get enough calcium in their diets, as this may help delay osteoporosis. Men may also, though rarely, develop osteoporosis late in life, and may benefit from calcium supplements.

In the US, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium varies with each group. Adults and teenagers should generally get between 800-1200 mg of calcium each day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need between 1200-1500 mg of calcium per day. Children from the ages of four to eight should get about 800 milligrams of calcium per day, and children from newborn to three years old should get about 400-800 mg a day.

The question remains as to who must take calcium supplements. An eight-ounce (226.79 g) glass of lowfat milk, for example, provides about 300 mg of calcium. If a five-year-old child drinks three glasses of milk a day, he or she does not generally need calcium supplementation. Younger adults, and teens would also have their calcium needs met with three glasses of milk a day. For those who are lactose intolerant, yogurt contains about the same amount of calcium per ounce and tends to be much easier to digest.

The pregnant woman, on the other hand might need five glasses of milk a day in order to meet calcium needs. The postmenopausal woman requires about the same. In these cases, calcium supplements may be helpful, since most people don’t consume that much milk on a daily basis.

Salmon is also high in calcium. A three ounce (85.04 g) serving contains about 300 mg of calcium. Four ounces (113.39 g) of tofu contain about 150 mg of calcium. These foods and others can help add to the daily amount of calcium one eats.

There are a few groups of people who should not take calcium supplements. Those who have high levels of calcium in the blood may be at risk for health issues if they take more calcium. Some people also accumulate calcium in the kidneys or bladder, which can cause stones to form. These people generally need to reduce their calcium intake in order to prevent formation of kidney or bladder stones.

Those who take tetracycline should not take calcium supplements within two hours after a tetracycline dose. This can interfere with the proper mechanisms of this antibiotic and render it ineffective. Several heart medications also mean avoiding calcium supplements. These include digitalis, dilantin, and gallium nitrate.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon148012 — On Jan 31, 2011

Try eating sesame seeds.

By carynvz — On Apr 22, 2009

The generic *slim fast* I buy says it contains 50% RDA calcium, but it's made with nonfat milk. Does this mean the calcium cannot be absorbed efficiently, as is the case with regular skim milk?

By marjorie — On Nov 17, 2008

Recently I posted an article saying my Mother took Phosoplex. In fact I meant Fosamax.

Here is my question again:

I am thoroughly confused about the benefits of taking Calcium. Quite frankly I am equally as terrified of taking it as not taking it. On one hand I am very worried about Osteoporosis, but at the same time I am concerned about the effects of calcium supplements on the kidneys, bladder and joints amongst other areas of the body where calcium build up can be a concern. My elderly mother who has osteoporosis has recently had a problem with her jaw through taking Fosamax for quite a long time. I do not like milk. There is also a lot of negativity of the health benefits of dairy. I have acquired a taste for soy, but there is also a lot of negativity in the health benefits of soy. I am skeptical that it is not possible to eat enough greens to obtain the recommended quantities of Calcium to avoid Osteoporosis so what does one do? I am interested in an answer revolved around food because I am already aware that exercise, Magnesium and sunshine for Vitamin D are integral parts of building strong bones.

By kuulaa — On Sep 23, 2008

I am a male vegetarian and do not eat dairy or tofu. How else can I get adequate calcium without taking calcium tabs. Thanks, keith

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
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