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Calcium Supplementation: Why You May Need It

Calcium is a popular supplement and for a good reason. This is because taking calcium as a supplement helps the body build strong bones and may reduce the risk of fractures. Although clear scientific studies may not show overt evidence for reducing risk of fractures, most experts still recommend supplementation.

How Much Calcium Does a Person Need?

Now you may be wondering, which calcium supplement and how much? The daily recommendation for adult women younger than 50 and adult men younger than 70 is 1000 mg of elemental calcium. For women over 50 and men over 70, they need a little more, 1200mg daily. This is the total daily amount, which is the total amount of calcium you will need from a combination of food sources and supplements.

Getting Calcium From Food Sources

First, determine about how much calcium you get from food sources, this is done by making some conservative estimations. I recommend using an online calculator, such as this one from the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

A serving of dairy, such as a glass of milk, can be as much as 300 mg. If you prefer green vegetables, a serving of raw broccoli is about 112 mg of calcium. You can also look on food labels to see how many milligrams of calcium are in a serving; if the label says a serving has 10% daily value (DV), that means there is 100 mg of calcium.

Now typically, people can get 300 mg of calcium from non-dairy foods and another 300 mg calcium for each dairy serving. So if you are woman over 50 with a typical diet that includes at least one serving of a dairy product, you are already at 600 mg of calcium, leaving about 600 mg needed to supplement from calcium.

If you get more than the daily recommended amount this is probably okay, just make sure you get enough and do not take more than the recommended amount as a supplement.

Which Calcium Supplements are Best?

Calcium supplements are most commonly available in the forms of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is usually cheaper, this is the active ingredient in Tums, but it may be more likely to cause digestive symptoms, such as flatulence or stomach upset. Calcium citrate is easier for your body to absorb and may not cause digestive symptoms. Calcium citrate is also recommended if you need to take stomach-acid reducing medications, because calcium carbonate is not absorbed as well when there is reduced acid in the stomach.

Calcium supplements may cause drug-drug interactions, so be sure to talk with your pharmacist about calcium supplementation if you take medications regularly. Your CHI Health Pharmacist can help you make an individualized plan on how to appropriately supplement calcium into your diet.

Michael Loewen, PharmD, RPh
Michael Loewen, PharmD, RPh

Michael Loewen, PharmD, RPh is a Pharmacist with CHI Health. Since graduating from Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, he has been working for CHI Health outpatient pharmacy at Midlands Hospital. He is passionate about educating patients about their medications and other ways to improve their health. When he is not at work, he enjoys running, training for triathlons, and watching football.

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