Diet and Nutrition

Could you be getting too much calcium?

Diet and Nutrition

It's time to bone up on your knowledge

Calcium intake is important for the prevention of osteoporosis, a dangerous thinning of bones that's particularly a problem in postmenopausal women. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, warns a UT Southwestern endocrinologist.

"It's best to get your calcium from the food you eat," says Naim Maalouf, M.D., "but many women take calcium supplements to boost their calcium consumption. Unfortunately, a few women go overboard, which can lead to serious health problems."

According to Dr. Maalouf, too much calcium can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. And, he says, a few studies suggest that excessive intake of calcium can also cause heat problems.

"What's clear is that there is no benefit to bone health from consuming higher-than-recommended levels of calcium, so it's best to stay at the recommended level," Dr. Maalouf says.

Recommended daily allowance of calcium

The National Academy of Medicine recommends these daily amounts of calcium for women (total intake from diet plus supplements):

  • Women ages 19 to 50: 1,000 milligrams daily, with an upper-level (safe) limit of 2,500 milligrams daily
  • Women ages 51 to 70: 1,200 milligrams daily, with an upper limit of 2,000 milligrams daily

Calcium tips

  • Milk, cheese, yogurt, and dark-green, leafy vegetables are good sources of calcium.
  • To determine how many milligrams of calcium are in packaged foods, look at the percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium per serving and then add a zero (or multiply buy 10).
  • Use calcium supplements only if dietary intake does not meet the recommended daily intake.
  • Choose calcium citrate tablets. Calcium is available in different formulations, but calcium citrate is absorbed best.
  • Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food, but it's best not to exceed 600 milligrams at a time.