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Calcium supplements

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WHO SHOULD TAKE CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS?

Calcium is an important mineral for the human body. It helps build and protect your teeth and bones. Getting enough calcium over your lifetime can help prevent osteoporosis, which is sometimes called "thin bones.".

Most people get enough calcium in their normal diet. Dairy foods, leafy green vegetables, and calcium fortified foods have high levels of calcium. For example, 1 cup (237 ml) of milk or yogurt has 300 mg of calcium. Older women and men may need extra calcium to prevent them from getting (osteoporosis).

Your health care provider will tell you if you need to take extra calcium. The decision to take extra calcium should be based on balancing the benefits and risks of doing so.

TYPES OF CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS

Forms of calcium include:

When choosing a calcium supplement:

HOW TO TAKE EXTRA CALCIUM

Follow your provider's advice on how much extra calcium you need.

Increase the dose of your calcium supplement slowly. Your provider may suggest that you start with 500 mg a day for a week, and then add more over time.

Try to spread the extra calcium you take over the day. DO NOT take more than 500 mg at a time. Taking calcium throughout the day will:

The total amount of calcium adults need every day from food and calcium supplements:

The body needs vitamin D to help absorb calcium. You can get vitamin D from sunlight exposure to your skin and from your diet. Ask your provider whether you need to take a vitamin D supplement. Some forms of calcium supplements also contain vitamin D.

SIDE EFFECTS AND SAFETY

DO NOT take more than the recommended amount of calcium without your provider's approval.

Try the following if you have side effects from taking extra calcium:

Always tell your provider and pharmacist if you are taking extra calcium. Calcium supplements may change the way your body absorbs some medicines. These include certain types of antibiotics and iron pills.

Be aware of the following:

References

Cosman F, de Beur SJ, LeBoff MS, et al. Clinician's guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Osteoporos Int. 2014;25(10):2359-2381. PMID: 25182228 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25182228/.

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. Calcium and vitamin D: important at every age. www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/nutrition/calcium-and-vitamin-d-important-every-age. Updated October 2018. Accessed June 7, 2021.

US Preventive Services Task Force, Grossman DC, Curry SJ, et al. Vitamin D, calcium, or combined supplementation for the primary prevention of fractures in community-dwelling adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2018;319(15):1592-1599. PMID: 29677309 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29677309/.

Weber TJ. Osteoporosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 230.

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Review Date: 1/31/2021  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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