Calcium supplements may help reduce bone mineral density loss, especially in people who are calcium deficient. A person’s dosage depends on their sex, age, and more.
The Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation (BHOF) recommends food as the first and primary source of calcium and supplements as secondary. Therefore, people with osteoporosis can work to increase the number of calcium-rich foods in their diet.
Read on to learn how much calcium people with osteoporosis need.
If a person requires a calcium supplement, they will likely also take vitamin D. This is because vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.
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.
The BHOF lists the following daily recommendations for calcium a person should get from all sources:
- women under age 50: 1,000 milligrams (mg)
- women over age 50: 1,200 mg
- men under age 70: 1,000 mg
- men over age 70: 1,200 mg
Additionally, adults under 50 years generally need 400–800 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. Those over 50 years need 800–1,000 IU daily.
A person with osteoporosis can check with a doctor about the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D for their individual circumstances.
Getting calcium from food is the best way to ensure adequate intake without having too much. A wide range of foods are high in calcium, including:
If a person does not get enough calcium from food, they should discuss supplement options with a doctor. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements, so it is important to get medical guidance about the safest option to try.
|Age||Daily calcium requirement|
|0–6 months||200 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|
|females age 51–70 years||1,200 mg|
|males age 51–70 years||1,000 mg|
|males and females over 70 years||1,200 mg|
It is possible to consume too much calcium, so people should only take supplements if a doctor recommends them.
Potential side effects of getting too much calcium include:
The BHOF advises people to get most of their calcium from food. A person can then supplement if they are unable to obtain sufficient calcium from their diet.
Some food sources of calcium and their calcium content are
|Food||Calcium per serving|
|low fat yogurt||415 mg|
|orange juice||349 mg|
|cooked soybeans||131 mg|
|canned salmon||181 mg|
|fortified breakfast cereal||1,130 mg|
|cottage cheese||138 mg|
|whole wheat bread||30 mg|
|apple with skin||10 mg|
Before a person takes any new medication — including calcium or other supplements — it is important to talk with a doctor.
Some questions a person may want to ask include:
- Do I need to take calcium or vitamin D supplements?
- How do I know if I am deficient in calcium or vitamin D?
- What else can I do to improve my health?
- Do I need osteoporosis medication?
- Can I get all of my daily calcium from food?
- Could another condition be affecting my calcium or vitamin D levels?
It is advisable for most people with osteoporosis to supplement with calcium and vitamin D.
While there are recommended daily intakes of both vitamins, a person’s supplemental needs will depend on their diet, health, lifestyle, and other factors. Therefore, it is important to talk with a doctor who specializes in bone health before supplementing.
If a person experiences side effects from taking calcium, they should inform a doctor and ask for additional guidance.