Specific groups of people benefit from calcium supplements, especially if they cannot get calcium as part of their regular diet. Other groups of people do not benefit from calcium supplements. In fact, supplementing the diet with calcium supplements may do more harm than good in some cases.
For many, a diet rich in dairy products provides more than enough calcium, and as long as the dairy products contain some fat, as in 1 or 2% milk, the calcium should be readily absorbed. Nonfat milk, also called skim milk, does not contain enough fat to absorb calcium efficiently. Instead, low fat milk is recommended for adults and children over the age of 5.
Some believe that almost all people should take a calcium supplement, or eat a diet high in calcium. Certainly, children need adequate calcium supply, which helps build healthy bones and lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. Pregnant women also need calcium, and nursing mothers tend to require the most.
Women in their late forties to early fifties should, as well, take calcium supplements if they do not get enough calcium in their diets, as this may help delay osteoporosis. Men may also, though rarely, develop osteoporosis late in life, and may benefit from calcium supplements.
In the US, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium varies with each group. Adults and teenagers should generally get between 800-1200 mg of calcium each day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need between 1200-1500 mg of calcium per day. Children from the ages of four to eight should get about 800 milligrams of calcium per day, and children from newborn to three years old should get about 400-800 mg a day.
The question remains as to who must take calcium supplements. An eight-ounce (226.79 g) glass of lowfat milk, for example, provides about 300 mg of calcium. If a five-year-old child drinks three glasses of milk a day, he or she does not generally need calcium supplementation. Younger adults, and teens would also have their calcium needs met with three glasses of milk a day. For those who are lactose intolerant, yogurt contains about the same amount of calcium per ounce and tends to be much easier to digest.
The pregnant woman, on the other hand might need five glasses of milk a day in order to meet calcium needs. The postmenopausal woman requires about the same. In these cases, calcium supplements may be helpful, since most people don’t consume that much milk on a daily basis.
Salmon is also high in calcium. A three ounce (85.04 g) serving contains about 300 mg of calcium. Four ounces (113.39 g) of tofu contain about 150 mg of calcium. These foods and others can help add to the daily amount of calcium one eats.
There are a few groups of people who should not take calcium supplements. Those who have high levels of calcium in the blood may be at risk for health issues if they take more calcium. Some people also accumulate calcium in the kidneys or bladder, which can cause stones to form. These people generally need to reduce their calcium intake in order to prevent formation of kidney or bladder stones.
Those who take tetracycline should not take calcium supplements within two hours after a tetracycline dose. This can interfere with the proper mechanisms of this antibiotic and render it ineffective. Several heart medications also mean avoiding calcium supplements. These include digitalis, dilantin, and gallium nitrate.