Calculate Your Calcium Intake
You may not know this but calcium isn’t just good for the bones. It is good for muscular health and nervous system health. Why? It functions in every muscle contraction and nerve induction! This is why deficiencies in calcium can lead to muscle twitch/spasm, muscle tendon strain, lack of sleep, and nervousness (Newstrom).
According to the NIH, the current RDA for calcium for someone aged 19-50 years old is 1,000mg. Calcium is needed for the healthy functioning of bones and it has verifiable, but inconsistent benefits for cancer of the colon and rectum (NIH). In one Canadian study, it was found that taking up to 1000mg of calcium was associated with reduced risk of death in women. The study looked at women at least 25 years old and followed them for 10 years (Langsetmo et al).
But, supplementation does come with some caveats. Calcium has recently come under fire for providing limited benefits to those with bone loss and has been associated with myocardial infarction (Li et al). Another study suggested that in patients with an atherosclerotic vascular disease event, supplementation for 5 years reduced the risk of another event; but a 9.5 year analysis revealed the likelihood of this benefit was reduced (Lewis et al). The United States Preventive Services Task Force has even recommended against the supplementation of calcium alone.
However, concurrent supplementation with vitamin D is supported. This may be because vitamin D helps regulate calcium in the body. The USPSTF recommends vitamin D supplementation at a median doe of 800IU to prevent falls in adults in the community at large. They also claim there is inadequate evidence supporting the supplementation of calcium with vitamin D among noninstitutionalized women to reduce fracture incidence (Moyer). So, support of concurrent supplementation with vitamin D is not refuted. Don’t mistake calcium’s benefits for bone health as exclusive to females; men benefit from calcium supplementation, too (Greene, Baker).
We can’t talk about calcium without mentioning its balancing buddy, magnesium. While calcium constricts muscles, magnesium relaxes muscles. There is a balancing act with calcium and magnesium in our bones, too (Allgrove and Shaw)! It is recommended to take at least 50 mg magnesium for every 100mg calcium (Newstrom). Only about 500mg of calcium can be absorbed at once so doses exceeding 500mg are not suggested (NIH). For example, in order to receive the RDA of 1000mg, one might divide it into 2 doses of 500mg.
As with all supplements, it is important to know a few things before beginning a regimen. First, consult your physician. Second, calcium citrate is the best form of calcium you can easily find; other forms of calcium may not absorb well (NIH). Because vitamin D helps with absorption of calcium, it is good to take calcium with vitamin D. The best time to take calcium is late in the day or at night. A good recommendation for a supplement is something with calcium citrate, magnesium (as citrate and other excipients) and vitamin D.
Sabeen is currently an MPH student at NOVA Southeastern University. She is an evidence-based health writer able to decipher and convey first hand research to an informed audience. Sabeen was inspired to write about natural alternatives to health after working for a science and health information dispensing company that also sold vitamins and supplements.
Disclaimer: The statements in this article are not intended to treat, prevent, diagnose, or cure disease.
Newstrom, Harvey. Nutrients Catalog: Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, macronutrients_beneficial use, helpers, inhibitors, food sources, intake recommendations, and symptoms of over or under use. McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers. Copyright 1993.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Health Information. Calcium: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. Reviewed: November 21, 2013. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/#en53
Lisa Langsetmo, Claudie Berger, Nancy Kreiger, Christopher S. Kovacs, David A. Hanley, Sophie A. Jamal, Susan J. Whiting, Jacques Genest, Suzanne N. Morin, Anthony Hodsman, Jerilynn C. Prior, Brian Lentle, Millan S. Patel, Jacques P. Brown, Tassos Anastasiades, Tanveer Towheed, Robert G. Josse, Alexandra Papaioannou, Jonathan D. Adachi, William D. Leslie, K. Shawn Davison, David Goltzman, and and the CaMos Group. Calcium and Vitamin D Intake and Mortality: Results from the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study (CaMos). The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Kuanrong Li, Rudolf Kaaks, Jakob Linseisen, Sabine Rohrmann. Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg). Heart 2012;98:920-925
Joshua R Lewis, Janine Calver, Kun Zhu, Leon Flicker, and Richard L Prince. Calcium supplementation and the risks of atherosclerotic vascular disease in older women: Results of a 5-year RCT and a 4.5-year follow-up. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Volume 26, Issue 1, pages 35–41
US Preventive Services Task Force. Final Recommendation Statement: Vitamin D and Calcium to Prevent Fractures: Preventive Medication, February 2013. Accessed 10/9/15. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/vitamin-d-and-calcium-to-prevent-fractures-preventive-medication
Allgrove J., Shaw N.J. Physiology of Calcium, Phosphate, Magnesium and Vitamin D. Calcium and Bone Disorders in Children and Adolescents. 2nd, revised edition. Endocr Dev. Basel, Karger, 2015, vol 28, pp 7-32