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UAB Tone Your Bones

Don't stop taking your calcium supplements just yet. Recent health headlines would have you believe that if you take calcium supplements you could be increasing your chances of having a heart attack. But the health stories don't tell you is that this research isn't very convincing.

First, this study was what is called a "meta-analysis" where the researchers did not actually collect any new data. Rather, they took a bunch of other researchers' data and crunched it all together. We need to interpret results from this kind of analysis carefully. Also, the number of heart attacks in both groups - the people taking and not taking calcium supplements - was small. So the increase in the calcium supplement group was negligible. 

So what should you do? Getting enough calcium is crucial for good bone health We're not telling anyone to stop taking calcium supplements if they need them. But too much of a good thing is usually bad. So don't overdo it. Most people need anywhere from 1000 to 1500 mg of calcium a day.  That does not mean you need 1000 to 1500 mg in supplements - especially if you are getting some calcium from your diet. So the first step is to estimate how much you get from foods and drinks. Then, top it off with supplements.

Common Sources of Calcium:
1 cup of milk or calcium added soy milk=300 mg
1 cup of calcium added juice=350 mg
1 cup of yogurt=300 to 400 mg
1 ounce of cheese=200 mg

 Calcium Tips:

  • take calcium carbonate (Tums, Caltrate, Oscal, Viactiv, most generics) with food - they need stomach acid for absorption
  • take calcium citrate with or without food
  • don't take all your calcium at once - whether from food or supplements - split it up to two or three times a day
  • buy store brands to save money
  • don't overdo your calcium - more is not better!

 Use the calcium calculator to see how much calcium you get every day.