Yesterday, my younger sister texted me asking if I think it’s okay for her to take a chocolate calcium supplement, and that actually she likes the taste so much that she has been having two per day.
I quickly texted her back — no, not okay!
As I review medications and supplements with my patients, I often discover they are taking a calcium supplement because they think this is good for their bones. I then spend a lot of time recommending they stop their supplement, and instead make sure to get sufficient calcium through food.
There’s more evidence coming out that calcium supplementation may actually be dangerous. This study published this week looked at calcium intake (through both diet and supplementation) of over 2700 patients and compared coronary artery CT scans over a 10 year period.
They found that taking a calcium supplement was associated with an increased risk of coronary artery calcification. Interestingly though, it seems that only the calcium supplements increase risk, while a calcium-rich diet was protective.
Here’s a nice article in Science Daily summarizing the study’s findings:
The bottom line — try to get the calcium you need from your food. For postmenopausal women this is 1200 mg per day. For other women this is 1000 mg per day. For men this is 1000 mg per day (men over 70: 1200mg per day).
It is not hard to meet these requirements with a balanced, whole foods diet. Food sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, soy and almond milk, cereals, and fish.
Here are some examples of foods and their estimated calcium amounts:
- Yogurt (1 cup): 450 mg
- Soy/Almond milk (1 cup): 200-400 mg
- Spinach (1 cup cooked): 240 mg
- Broccoli (1 cup cooked): 180 mg
- Figs (dried, 1 cup ): 300 mg
- Tofu (4 oz, calcium set): 250-750 mg
- White beans (1/2 cup cooked): 70 mg
- Almonds (1 oz): 80 mg
- Sesame seeds (1 oz): 280 mg