It’s so important to your normal functioning that if you don’t receive adequate amounts from your diet or supplementation, your body will leech it from your bones to use elsewhere, weakening your skeletal system and increasing your risk of fractures.
Calcium is a mineral that is naturally found in the earth. It is found in the second group, alkaline earth metals, and the second period of the periodic table. It is considered a metal, and therefore can be found as a positive ion. These ions within the body are necessary to get signals to-and-from the brain.
Since your body doesn’t produce calcium, so you have to rely on your diet (and supplements) to get the calcium you need.
1Calcium increases bone density and helps to maintain strong bone health. A 2014 study showed that calcium directly increases bone density and helps to maintain strong bone health (3).
Another older study conducted in 1997 also indicated a direct association between calcium and bone density. Researchers hypothesized that inadequate calcium intake was associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis in seniors. Individuals in the study took supplements over the course of 3 years.
The study concluded that those participants that took vitamin D and calcium supplementation had reduced bone loss in their spine and overall body (4).
Another study explored calcium supplementation and increases in bone density in children. Researchers discovered that calcium supplementation increased bone mineral density in children. Consequently, they were at a lower risk of fractures later in life (5).
2Calcium can reduce the risk of fractures, especially in the elderly. In 2016 a meta-analysis published in osteoporosis international assessed the use of calcium in conjunction with Vitamin D to asses the preventative benefits against features. 30,970 patients demonstrated that calcium reduced the risk of fractures showing a 15% reduction of total fractures, with a 30% reduction in hip fractures specifically (6).
A 2009 review showed similar findings. It supported the conclusion of various studies and research showing that older women should increase their calcium intake to reduce their risk of fractures (7).
3Calcium may help alleviate PMS symptoms. A 2015 study showed that women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) had lower serum levels of calcium and magnesium (8).
As such, it is hypothesized that balancing these out via supplementation could help alleviate PMS symptoms, but more research is needed.
4Calcium can help with fat loss. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has demonstrated that calcium has weight loss effects by an increase in fat oxidation and fecal loss, as well as the facilitation of appetite control (9).
Another 2004 study published in the same journal showed that diets that include greater or equal to 3 daily servings of dairy products result in significant reductions in fat tissue mass in obese humans, even without dietary restrictions (10).
Dairy sources of calcium exert a significantly greater anti-obesity effect than supplemental sources in each of these studies. This is possibly due to the effects of other bioactive compounds on fat cell metabolism, indicating an important role for dairy products in the control of obesity (11, 12).
5Calcium can reduce the risk of colon cancer. In a study done in Korea, calcium consumption showed it was inversely related to colon cancer risk, where the Korean national average calcium intake level is relatively lower than in Western countries. A decreased risk of colorectal cancer by calcium intake was observed in all subsites in men and women (13, 14).
For total calcium intake, each 300 mg/day increase was associated with an approximately 8% reduced risk of colon cancer (17).
APC/β-catenin pathway malfunction is a common and early event in colon cancer. A 2017 study showed that calcium supplements have shown to improve the pathway and reduce the risk of cancer (18).
6Calcium can help lower blood pressure. In a survey of over 14,000 obese adults age 20 years or older, there was a clear inverse correlation between calcium intake and high blood pressure. This showed to be especially true for women (19).
A 2015 review showed that an increase in calcium intake slightly reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, particularly in young people, suggesting a role in the prevention of hypertension (20, 21).
7Calcium may help to increase testosterone in active individuals. In 2009 a four-week study was done involving the supplementation of calcium gluconate in active and sedentary males showed an increase in testosterone in the active group (22).
However, the calcium failed to increase testosterone in sedentary men relative to their own baseline.
8Calcium supplementation during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of complications. A 1999 study published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology showed that 1.8g of calcium supplementation during the second half a woman’s pregnancy was correlated with fewer complications of preterm birth (23).
9Calcium functions as a co-factor for various enzymes. Various studies show that calcium is a major factor in the creation and activation of specific enzymes necessary for normal functioning (24, 25).
10Calcium helps muscles in the human body contract. When a message is sent to the muscles to contract, calcium ions are released. This release of calcium stimulates the contractile proteins. In other words, calcium controls muscular contraction. Without muscle contraction, the human body is unable to perform necessary movements and functions to lead an optimally healthy life (26).
11Calcium supplementation may promote optimal dental health. A 2009 study explored the effects of calcium and vitamin D supplementation on dental health. Researchers included 51 subjects in their study.
These subjects were all receiving periodontal treatment, which is the treatment of the gums and structures surrounding and in the teeth. 23 of these participants took vitamin D and calcium supplements. Better improvements in dental health were noted in the subjects taking supplementation (27).
12Calcium may help treat kidney stones and prevent kidney disease. A study from 1993 explored dietary calcium intake in relation to kidney stones. Researchers concluded that higher dietary calcium intake was associated with a decreased risk of kidney stones (28).
1Calcium can cause IBS like symptoms in high dosages. Calcium can irritate the intestines and cause IBS like symptoms including bloating, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain (21).
2Calcium may increase the risk of dementia. A 2016 study published in Neurology set out to determine whether calcium supplementation is associated with the development of dementia in women after a 5-year follow-up. It was found that elderly women taking calcium supplementation increased the chance of developing mixed and vascular dementia but not Alzheimer’s dementia (22).
3Calcium can increase the risk of heart issues. Two meta-analyses involving 11 placebo-controlled trials found that calcium modestly increased the risk of strokes and heart attacks (23).
In another meta-analysis, calcium supplementation of equal to or great than 500 mg per day without co-administered vitamin D was linked with an increased risk of heart attacks (24).
4Calcium and increase the risk of certain types of cancers. Studies show that consuming 2000mg/day (double the normal dose) has been associated with both an increase in prostate cancer and an increase in fatal prostate cancer (25, 26).
This does not discriminate between supplementation and food, just the total amount of calcium.
5Calcium can interact with certain medications. Administering intravenous ceftriaxone and calcium can result in life-threatening damage to the lungs and kidneys. Calcium should not be administered intravenously within 48 hours of intravenous ceftriaxone (27).
According to examine.com calcium can also reduce the efficacy of some antivirals (e.g., amprenavir and zalcitabine), aspirin, several antibiotics (e.g., several fluoroquinolones, tetracycline, and several cephalosporins), and some antifungals (e.g., ketoconazole) (28).
Calcium should never be taken in conjunction with thyroid replacement hormones such as levothyroxine as it hampered the absorption of the drug in the body.
6Calcium overtime can lead to hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia is when an individual has very high serum calcium levels; usually a result of long-term overdosing. Hypercalcemia has been associated with an increased risk of heart issues and even strokes (29).
This would take a high dose of >20g per day over a long period of time for many individuals however and is often not something to worry about.
7Calcium supplementation can block other mineral absorption. A 2007 review published in Nutrition in Clinical Practice showed that too much calcium via diet or supplementation interfered with the proper absorption of other essential minerals including magnesium, zinc and phosphorous (30).
For a normal adult, it is recommended to ingest around 1000mg of calcium per day (31).
However, it can increase up to 1300mg per day for the elderly and for women who are pregnant.
This can be split up with supplements and food, or achieved from either one by itself. However, if you are taking supplements, make sure to take no more than 500mg at once and with vitamin D to ensure proper and adequate absorption (32).
Calcium supplements come in two main forms: calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is more expensive however it is more easily absorbed and less likely to cause side effects (33).
Which foods are rich in calcium? The top 4 are seeds (including poppy, sesame and, chia), cheese, yogurt and fish like sardines and salmon.
Which form of calcium is better to take? Calcium supplements come in two main forms: calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is more expensive; however, it is more easily absorbed and less likely to cause side effects (34).
Is it better to take calcium in the morning or at night? Either is fine as there is no scientific evidence that proves one is better than the other.
How much calcium do I need per day? 1000 – 1200mg per day is the recommended dose.
Why does my calcium supplement contain vitamin D as well? Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and thus it is often a paired product in many calcium supplements.
What happens if you don t get enough calcium? When you’re chronically low in calcium, your bones and teeth begin to slowly deteriorate because your body is using its calcium stores to perform other functions, such as muscle contraction and forming new cell membranes. Poor blood clotting can also occur as a result.
Can you overdose on calcium? Getting too much calcium can cause constipation. It might also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc, but this effect is not well established. In adults, too much calcium (from dietary supplements but not food) might increase the risk of kidney stones.
What age does calcium loss generally begin? Most people will reach their peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30. By the time we reach age 40, however, we slowly begin to lose bone mass. We can, however, take steps to avoid severe bone loss over time.
Does taking calcium help with osteoporosis? Osteoporosis prevention begins during childhood and adolescence by getting enough exercise and the proper nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D. However, adults can help prevent osteoporosis in the same ways.
Is yogurt high in calcium? The main foods rich in calcium are dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. However, many non-dairy sources are also high in this mineral.
Is coffee bad for bones? Studies show cola connection in women, but not men. Colas and coffee appear to have some effect on women’s bone density and could lead to osteoporosis.
Calcium is one of the most important nutrients to your overall health – so much so that your body will leech from your own bones if you aren’t getting enough.
The daily requirement is around 1000mg and can be a combination of supplements and food. However it has been shown to that calcium coming from food is much better used and absorbed in the body – thus being the preferred method.
Calcium supplementation can cause some side effects mimicking IBS like symptoms and does not interact well with certain medications – especially those involved in thyroid replacement therapy.
As with any mineral or nutrient, you should monitor your calcium intake so that you aren’t getting too much or too little.