Calcium from Food Not Supplements

Recent research indicates with calcium more is not better.  Calcium from supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney stones if you get too much calcium from supplements or if you already get enough calcium from your diet and take supplemental calcium.  Calcium supplements are thought to cause blood calcium levels to increase much more abruptly than calcium rich foods.  Mark Hegsted, a long time Harvard nutrition researcher, who died in 2009 at age 95, suggested that very high calcium intakes consumed for many years impaired the body's ability to regulate calcium resulting in a disruption of calcium absorption and excretion.

Some research suggests that it may be healthier to get calcium from a variety of plant foods because they contain other important bone building nutrients.  In the Women's Health Initiative study the women consuming more calcium from their diets were less likely to develop kidney stones so dietary calcium may act differently in regard to kidney stone formation than calcium supplements.   While calcium is necessary to good bone health, the strength of your bones depends more on everything you eat and how active you are than just how much calcium you consume.

The recommended amount of calcium for U.S. women is 1000 mg. for ages 19 to 50 and 1200 mg. for ages 51 and over. The recommended amount of calcium for U.S. men is 1000 mg. for ages 19 to 70 and 1200 mg. for over 70.

Calcium Paradox

Countries with the highest consumption of milk, dairy and calcium have the world's highest fracture rates.  Many non- western countries with the lowest fracture rates and incidence of osteoporosis consume less calcium than western countries (400 to 600 mg/day).   Explanations for this  "Calcium Paradox" may relate to what else these populations are consuming in their diets and the significant differences between western and non-western diets in intakes of processed foods, sodium, meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables.

A Tip About Your Calcium Intake

The absorption of calcium varies according to the source and what else is being eaten with the calcium containing foods.  The 1000 to 1200 mg. calcium recommendation considers the differences in absorption so it is not necessary to be concerned about how much your body is utilizing when you consume the recommended amount.  Since the absorption of calcium is highest when the meal or snack contains 500 mg. or less of calcium it is a good idea to consume your calcium in increments of 500 mg. or less throughout the day.

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