Calcium is an essential nutrient for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Although a person may be able to get the calcium they need from their diet, some people need extra support from a calcium supplement.
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Factors such as age, diet, and underlying medical conditions can affect how much calcium a person’s body absorbs.
This article will look at who might benefit from a calcium supplement, how much calcium a person needs, some of the products available, and when to speak to a doctor.
Many people can get enough calcium from a balanced diet.
However, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) note that certain groups may be more at risk of calcium deficiency, including:
- Postmenopausal females: Decreases in estrogen can reduce calcium absorption and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Taking calcium supplements may slow the rate of bone density loss in postmenopausal females.
- People with infrequent or no periods: People who do not have a regular menstrual cycle may also have lower estrogen levels. Athletes or people with eating disorders can sometimes have irregular cycles.
- People with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy: Avoiding dairy products can make it harder to get enough calcium. Taking a supplement can help boost levels.
- Vegans and some vegetarians: Vegans and ovovegetarians, who eat eggs but no dairy products, may not get enough calcium from their everyday diet.
If a person is concerned that they have a calcium deficiency, it is important to speak to a healthcare provider. They can perform certain tests and analyze the person’s overall health and diet to confirm whether or not a calcium supplement is necessary.
The best calcium supplement will depend on the person’s unique circumstances. The type and quantity of calcium a person needs will vary depending on:
- their age
- whether or not they take any medications
- whether or not they have any health conditions
A doctor can advise on the best way for someone to get more calcium based on these factors.
When looking for a product, it is important to consider the following factors.
It is important to choose a supplement that contains the right amount of calcium for a person’s age. The ODS suggest that people get the following amounts of calcium in their diet each day:
|Age||Daily calcium requirement|
|0–6 months||200 milligrams (mg)|
|7–12 months||260 mg|
|1–3 years||700 mg|
|4–8 years||1,000 mg|
|9–18 years||1,300 mg|
|19–50 years||1,000 mg|
|51–70 years||1,000 mg for males, 1,200 mg for females|
|71 years and above||1,200 mg|
People below the age of 18 who are pregnant or breastfeeding need 1,300 mg of calcium per day.
In addition to finding a product with the right dosage, it is also a good idea to consider which form of calcium will be most suitable.
There are two main forms of calcium in supplements: calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
Calcium carbonate is:
- widely available
- higher in calcium
However, calcium carbonate relies on stomach acid for absorption, so people should take it with food. Some people may also find that calcium carbonate causes side effects, such as gas and bloating.
Calcium citrate does not depend on stomach acid for absorption. As a result, it can be more suitable for people with:
- lower levels of stomach acid
- inflammatory bowel disease
- a sensitivity to calcium carbonate
However, calcium citrate is more expensive than calcium carbonate, and it contains less calcium overall. This means that a person may need to take it more frequently.
The following products contain safe dosages of calcium for adults and have undergone quality testing by a third party.
Some also contain other nutrients that can help with calcium absorption, such as vitamin D.
Please note that the statements below are research-based. No one at Medical News Today, including the writer, has tried these products.
NOW Supplements Calcium Carbonate Powder
This product contains pure calcium carbonate powder. Half a level teaspoon (tsp) provides 600 mg of calcium. Because this calcium supplement comes in powder form, a person can customize the dosage according to their needs.
The manufacturers recommend mixing the powder into juices, such as orange or tomato juice, and taking it with a meal. Each bottle contains 200 servings.
This product is suitable for Kosher and vegan diets, and it is Good Manufacturing Practice-assured. This means that every aspect of the company’s manufacturing process adheres to strict quality standards.
NOW Supplements Calcium Citrate Powder
This supplement may be a better choice for people whose bodies do not tolerate calcium carbonate. It contains 600 mg of calcium per 1.5 tsp serving.
A person can use this powder in the same way as the calcium carbonate powder, adding it to juices to take with a meal. It also meets the same quality and manufacturing standards as their Calcium Carbonate Powder.
Thorne Research Basic Bone Nutrients
This product contains several nutrients that work together to support bone health, including:
- vitamin D3
- vitamin K2
According to a 2017 review, there is evidence to suggest that taking vitamin K and D together is more effective than taking vitamin D alone. Additionally, vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium.
The manufacturers suggest taking one to four capsules daily or however many a healthcare provider recommends.
It is important to note that this product does not provide specific dosage recommendations, since calcium needs vary significantly from person to person.
Therefore, it may be best to talk to a healthcare provider to find out how many capsules are necessary to take per day. Each capsule contains 200 mg of calcium in the form of dicalcium malate.
Designs for Health Calcium Malate Capsules
This supplement contains dicalcium malate, which is a compound of calcium and malic acid. According to the manufacturers, this form of calcium is easier to absorb than calcium alone.
The product also contains a small amount of vitamin D to aid absorption. Two capsules provide 500 mg of calcium and 100 international units of vitamin D.
This product is dairy- and soy-free and suitable for vegetarians.
The manufacturers make their products in facilities that have one or more certifications to demonstrate their safety and quality. They also ensure Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance.
Calcium supplements may cause adverse effects — such as gas, bloating, or constipation — for some people. Taking too much calcium may also lead to:
- kidney stones
- soft tissue calcification
- renal insufficiency
According to the ODS, there is also some evidence to suggest that high calcium intakes may contribute to prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, studies looking at these risks have had mixed results.
Calcium supplements can interact with other medications, such as:
- osteoporosis medications, such as bisphosphonates
- certain antibiotics, such as tetracycline or fluoroquinolone
- anticonvulsant medications, such as phenytoin
- thyroid medications, such as levothyroxine
- medications for Paget’s disease, such as tiludronate disodium
People who take any medications or who have any underlying conditions should talk to their healthcare provider before trying a calcium supplement.
A person may be able to get enough calcium from food alone. Dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese contain the highest levels of calcium.
Some dairy- and lactose-free sources of calcium include:
- nuts and seeds
- dark, leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
- beans and lentils
- tofu made with calcium sulfate
- canned fish, such as sardines or salmon
- fortified breakfast cereals
- fortified milk alternatives
- fortified fruit juice
Some substances can also reduce the amount of calcium the body absorbs. These include:
- high amounts of salt
- high amounts of protein
If a person’s body has difficulty absorbing calcium, they may benefit from reducing their intake of foods and beverages that contain these substances.
People who suspect that they have a calcium deficiency should speak to a healthcare provider, if possible. They can determine if this is the case and, if so, recommend some ways to get more calcium.
If a person experiences new or worsening symptoms while taking calcium, they should stop taking the supplement and talk to a healthcare provider.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for bone health. Some people may not be able to get enough calcium from their diet, in which case they may benefit from taking a supplement.
A healthcare provider can help someone choose the form and dosage they need. They can also advise on any other nutrients that might help with absorption.