Osteoporosis causes weak bones that can fracture easily. Taking calcium for osteoporosis may help support a person’s bone health, but taking too much calcium may cause side effects.

Osteoporosis is a medical condition that develops when people lose bone density, which leads to weakened bones. People with osteoporosis are at more risk of fractures and falls.

This condition can develop slowly and may not cause symptoms. People may not know they have the condition until they experience a fracture.

The risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age. Osteoporosis is a major cause of fractures in postmenopausal females and older males. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that 10 million U.S. adults ages 50 and over have osteoporosis.

Calcium is an essential element that supports bone development. People may help decrease their risk of osteoporosis by eating a diet rich in calcium.

This article explores the benefits of calcium for osteoporosis and health considerations for taking calcium. It also discusses tips for managing osteoporosis and when to speak with a doctor about the condition.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Calcium is the most abundant mineral in a person’s body. It helps a person build and maintain strong bones as they age.

Bones are partly made of mixtures of calcium with other minerals, such as calcium phosphate. However, a person cannot make calcium. Instead, they get calcium from the food and drink they eat.

If people do not get enough calcium as part of their diet, it may increase their risk of developing osteoporosis. This can also make their bones more fragile and raise their risk of falls and fractures.

A 2020 study found that consuming dairy, which is high in calcium and vitamin D, is linked with a lower risk of fractures.

A person may decide to add good sources of calcium to their diet to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. These may include:

People can also take calcium in supplement form. This may be a more suitable option for people living in food deserts, or areas with limited access to healthy and affordable food. However, a person should speak with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

Further resources

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

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A calcium-rich diet may help people lower their risk of developing osteoporosis. However, taking too much calcium may cause people to experience side effects or complications.

Hypercalcemia, or high calcium levels, is rare but may occur as a result of certain health conditions or if a person takes excessive amounts of calcium supplements. Symptoms of hypercalcemia may include:

The National Institutes of Health states that high calcium intake may raise a person’s risk of CVD and prostate cancer. However, further research may be needed to confirm this risk.

The HHS recommends the following intakes of calcium daily:

GroupRecommended daily calcium intake
[milligrams (mg)]
Females ages 19–50 1,000 mg
Females ages 51 or older1,200 mg
Males ages 19–701,000 mg
Males ages 71 or older1,200 mg
Children aged 6–12 months260 mg
Children ages 1–3700 mg
Children ages 4–81,000 mg
Children ages 9–181,300 mg

People should speak with a healthcare professional if they are concerned about their calcium levels or osteoporosis.

Other ways people can manage their osteoporosis include:

  • preventing falls, by:
    • exercising to improve strength and balance
    • standing up slowly, or using a cane or walker for steadiness
    • installing night-lights and grab bars in their home bathroom
    • taking extra using stairs during rainy or wet weather
  • eating foods that support bone health, such as:
    • dairy products, such as milk
    • leafy green vegetables
    • fish
    • fortified juices
    • grains
  • doing physical activities that can build and strengthen bones, such as:
    • strength training
    • walking
    • hiking
    • jogging
    • climbing stairs
    • tennis
    • dancing
  • quitting smoking, as smoking can increase a person’s risk of weakened bones
  • limiting alcohol consumption, as alcohol can affect bone health

People with osteoporosis should check with their doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

If people cannot get enough calcium from their diet, they may need to take calcium supplements. However, they should speak with a healthcare professional first, who can advise them on:

  • safe amounts of calcium to take each day
  • reputable supplement manufacturers and suitable supplements
  • whether to take vitamin D supplements

Healthcare professionals can also monitor a person’s osteoporosis or recommend alternative treatments if necessary.

People need calcium to build healthy bones in childhood and maintain them during adulthood. If a person does not have enough calcium in their diet, their risk of developing osteoporosis is higher.

Certain foods are good sources of calcium. People can also take calcium supplements if they cannot get enough calcium as part of their diet.

However, people should consult a healthcare professional before taking any calcium supplements. Having too much calcium in the body may cause side effects and increase a person’s risk of other health conditions.