We’ve all been told for years that calcium is vital for bone health. It is common knowledge that older adults, particularly women over 50 should take calcium supplements to keep their aging bones strong and prevent osteoporosis related fractures. Until recently the main debate has been about which type of calcium supplements were best, whether the pills can be a cause of kidney stones, and what other supplements need to be taken in conjunction with the calcium. In a recent draft recommendation from the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force it was concluded that supplemental calcium and vitamin D don’t prevent fractures in post-menopausal women.
Here’s what you should know. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body and is found primarily in your bones and teeth. Bones and teeth are living, active tissue and they constantly absorb and release calcium and other minerals. Calcium is not only important for your bones and teeth to remain healthy and strong, but it has many other important functions such as regulating your heart beat and blood pressure, conducting nerve impulses, allowing your muscles to contract and helping your blood clot. If you do not take in enough calcium, your body will leach it from your teeth and bones, which can weaken them.
According to the September 2012 issue of the John’s Hopkins Wellness Letter, many researchers have been critical of the conclusions made by the U.S. Preventive Services Task force, saying they have misrepresented the research, or at least put too negative a spin on it. Calcium is vital to overall health and it is important to make sure you are getting enough in your diet. The most common recommendation for calcium intake ranges from 800-1200 mg daily, but much of that can come from a calcium rich diet. Foods such as dairy, soy, fish, broccoli and almonds are good natural sources of calcium. If your diet falls short of the daily recommended calcium intake, supplements can be beneficial, buy there is little added benefit from taking doses higher than 500 mg at a time. Since the body absorbs larger amounts less efficiently, it is best to spread your calcium intake throughout the day – which is another reason why food sources are preferable. High doses of calcium are known to increase the risk of certain types of kidney stones, in contrast the foods that are naturally rich in calcium seem to protect against kidney stones.
Bottom line… talk to your doctor about your calcium needs, chances are if you eat a good, balanced diet, you may be getting all the calcium you need.