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.

Typically, doctors recommend that all people with osteoporosis take calcium and vitamin D supplements. This is because calcium and vitamin D work together to protect the bones.

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.

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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.

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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:

The BHOF lists steps to help a person assess their daily calcium intake. Many sources of calcium, including dairy products, also come fortified with vitamin D.

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.

Further resources

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

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People require different amounts of calcium at various life stages:

AgeDaily calcium requirement
0–6 months200 mg
7–12 months260 mg
1–3 years700 mg
4–8 years1,000 mg
9–18 years1,300 mg
19–50 years1,000 mg
females age 51–70 years1,200 mg
males age 51–70 years1,000 mg
males and females over 70 years1,200 mg

It is possible to consume too much calcium, so people should only take supplements if a doctor recommends them.

Hypercalcemia, which means a person has too much calcium in their bloodstream, is rare and usually signals an underlying condition.

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 as follows:

FoodCalcium per serving
low fat yogurt415 mg
orange juice349 mg
cooked soybeans131 mg
canned salmon181 mg
fortified breakfast cereal1,130 mg
cottage cheese138 mg
kale94 mg
whole wheat bread30 mg
apple with skin10 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.