How much calcium does a woman need in a day
How much calcium per day is recommended? Like many women, you may have memorized the minimum daily calcium requirement—1, milligrams mg a day for women ages 50 and younger and 1, mg for women over 50—and followed it faithfully in an effort to preserve your bones. You'll probably be surprised to learn that many health authorities don't agree with that recommendation. Chan School of Public Health, thinks you're likely to do just as well on half as much calcium. The World Health Organization's recommendation of mg is probably about right. The United Kingdom sets the goal at mg, which is fine, too.SEE VIDEO BY TOPIC: Calcium-Rich Foods for Better Bone Health
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Osteoporosis: Prevention With Calcium Treatment
How much calcium per day is recommended? Like many women, you may have memorized the minimum daily calcium requirement—1, milligrams mg a day for women ages 50 and younger and 1, mg for women over 50—and followed it faithfully in an effort to preserve your bones.
You'll probably be surprised to learn that many health authorities don't agree with that recommendation. Chan School of Public Health, thinks you're likely to do just as well on half as much calcium. The World Health Organization's recommendation of mg is probably about right. The United Kingdom sets the goal at mg, which is fine, too. It allows for a little leeway," he says. Adequate calcium is necessary for good health, and not just because it's a major component of our bones.
It also plays a vital role in keeping our organs and skeletal muscles working properly. The body gets the calcium it needs for basic functions by releasing the calcium stored in our bones into the blood through bone remodeling—the process by which bone is constantly broken down and rebuilt. Because bone density drops when bone breakdown outpaces bone formation, scientists reasoned that maintaining an adequate level of calcium in the blood could keep the body from drawing it out of the bones.
In the late s, a couple of brief studies indicated that consuming 1, mg of calcium a day could preserve a postmenopausal woman's calcium balance.
Based on those studies, in an Institute of Medicine panel raised the recommendation for calcium intake from mg to 1, mg a day for women over That wasn't a sound decision, Dr. Willett says: "The recommendation was based on calcium balance studies that lasted just a few weeks. In fact, calcium balance is determined over the course of years. Nonetheless, the recommendation has been carried forward since then. In the past two decades, several clinical trials involving thousands of postmenopausal women have sought to determine how calcium intake affects the risk of hip fractures.
In each study, women were randomly assigned to one of two groups—one to receive calcium and supplements of vitamin D to aid calcium absorption and the other to get placebo pills.
After several years, the researchers looked at the number of hip fractures in each group. Here's what they found:. Calcium and vitamin D supplements don't prevent fractures. That finding came from two British studies reported in It was substantiated by a report from the Women's Health Initiative, which showed that 18, postmenopausal women who took a supplement containing 1, mg of calcium and international units IU of vitamin D were no less likely to break their hips than an equal number who took a placebo pill, although the density of their hip bones increased slightly.
Even that small change might have been due to the vitamin D rather than the calcium. High calcium intake—from either food or pills—doesn't reduce hip fracture risk. This was the conclusion of a report by Swiss and American scientists who conducted an analysis of more than a dozen studies of calcium.
The studies also revealed a couple of downsides to high levels of calcium supplementation, but not to calcium obtained through a regular diet:.
An increased risk of kidney stones. In the Woman's Health Initiative, women taking the calcium—vitamin D combination had a higher risk of developing kidney stones than those who got the placebo. Although high levels of dietary calcium are thought to offer some protection against kidney stones, high doses of calcium from supplements may promote stone formation by increasing the amount of calcium that is eliminated in the urine.
An increased risk of heart attack. In a randomized study of 1, postmenopausal women conducted in New Zealand, 21 of women who took 1, mg of calcium a day had heart attacks, compared with 10 of who received a placebo. A analysis of 15 randomized controlled trials also linked calcium supplementation with an increased risk of heart attack. Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones. In fact, the daily vitamin D requirement was first introduced to help prevent rickets—a condition in which developing bones are soft and can become bowed—in children.
Vitamin D is made in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. However, the amount produced varies widely from person to person. People with darker skin produce less vitamin D than lighter-skinned people, and in all populations, the skin's ability to convert sunlight to vitamin D declines with age. Plus, if you follow the advice to reduce your risk of skin cancer by keeping covered and wearing sunscreen, you're also cutting your vitamin D production.
Such variability has made it difficult for researchers to tell how much vitamin D people make in addition to the amount they consume in supplements. Evidence from studies that have measured blood levels of vitamin D indicates that levels in the high-normal range are optimal for building bone. To reach those levels may require taking to 1, IU of vitamin D a day. One thing the studies have taught us is that both calcium and vitamin D are essential in building bone. The question is how much of each.
Willett recommends going lower on calcium and higher on vitamin D than the guidelines suggest— to mg a day of calcium and to 1, IU of vitamin D. At that rate, you can probably get all or most of your calcium from food, especially if you have a serving or two of dairy products daily. If you can't tolerate dairy, you should still be able to get mg a day in your diet and can take a low-dose calcium supplement to make up the rest.
By keeping your supplement consumption to mg or less a day, you should avoid the possible risk of heart disease and kidney stones suggested by the studies. Although vitamin D is added to milk and some other foods, you'll probably need a supplement to be sure you're getting enough. A capsule containing to 1, IU should do the trick. Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content.
Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Harvard Women's Health Watch. Image: Thinkstock. Updated: September 11, Published: July, Should I take a potassium supplement? E-mail Address. First Name Optional. Image: Thinkstock Only two servings of dairy products a day can provide all the calcium you need.
Calcium and Vitamin D
As new scientific research emerges, recommendations change. We are now rethinking how much calcium and vitamin D is needed for good bone health. There is increasing evidence that too much calcium from supplements is not likely to be a benefit — and worse, can be harmful.
The information included here will help you learn all about calcium and vitamin D — the two most important nutrients for bone health. Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. Every day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces.
Calcium is a key nutrient that many of us overlook in our diets. Almost every cell in the body uses calcium in some way, including the nervous system, muscles, and heart. Calcium deficiency can contribute to mood problems such as irritability, anxiety, depression, and difficulty sleeping. Despite these vital functions, many of us are confused about calcium and how to best protect our bones and overall health. How much calcium should you get? Where should you get it? This confusion means that many of us are not getting the recommended daily amount of calcium and approximately one in two women and about one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements
Governor Hogan announced that health care institutions in Maryland can start performing elective surgical cases in guidance with the State Department of Health. Learn what Johns Hopkins is doing. When you were a child, your mom may have encouraged you to drink milk to build strong bones. However you do it, getting enough calcium is a good idea, since women are far more likely than men to develop osteoporosis — a condition of weak and fragile bones that makes you prone to fractures: Of the 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, 80 percent are women.
Calcium is a mineral that the body needs for good health. Calcium is found naturally in some foods and is added to others. It also is available as a nutrition supplement and is contained in some medicines like Tums.
Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is a mineral that helps build strong bones. During the teenage years particularly ages , your bones are developing quickly and are storing calcium so that your skeleton will be strong later in life. Nearly half of all bone is formed during these years.
The foods we eat contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients that help keep our bodies healthy. Two nutrients in particular, calcium and vitamin D, are needed for strong bones. Calcium is needed for our heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly and for blood to clot. Inadequate calcium significantly contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Many published studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates.
Calcium and Bone Health
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Calcium is important to building strong, healthy bones and your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. The amount of calcium and Vitamin D you need each day depends on your age and if you are male or female. Fortified food is the best source of vitamin D and calcium. You may also call to speak to a registered dietitian, Monday to Friday a.
How much calcium do you really need?
Calcium is important for optimal bone health throughout your life. Although diet is the best way to get calcium, calcium supplements may be an option if your diet falls short. Before you consider calcium supplements, be sure you understand how much calcium you need, the pros and cons of calcium supplements, and which type of supplement to choose.
How much calcium is too much?
Get the Facts on Calcium and Vitamin D