Calcium Questions

How much calcium do I need?

Adults should have about 1000 to 1200 mg calcium per day, ideally entirely from the diet. If there is an insufficient dietary calcium intake that cannot be corrected, calcium supplements can be used to get the total intake up to this amount. There is no proven benefit to getting more than 1200 mg calcium per day.

What kind of calcium is best?

Any brand name or generic calcium product that meets USP standards (usually listed on the label) is probably fine. Most people begin with calcium carbonate, which is generally the least expensive and most widely available. The real issue is getting enough calcium, not what kind of calcium you take.

How do I take the calcium?

Calcium carbonate should be taken with a meal or snack. Calcium citrate may be taken with food or on an empty stomach. To assure maximum absorption, it is best to divide the calcium intake during the day, so that you do not take any more than 500 to 600 mg at one time.

How do I know if the calcium is being absorbed?

If you are unsure about the quality of the calcium you are taking, do the vinegar test. Put your calcium product in a half glass of white vinegar, to duplicate acid conditions in the stomach, stir and wait one-half hour. The calcium should be broken down into a slurry of fine particles. If it remains intact and unchanged, then don’t take it.

Can I take too much calcium?

Yes. A daily calcium intake of more than 2000 mg may increase the risk of kidney stones, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

What if calcium bothers my stomach?

If calcium carbonate upsets your stomach, then try calcium citrate. If you become constipated, then take a calcium product that contains magnesium, which is a natural laxative.

What if I have had a kidney stone?

The recommended dietary intake of 1200 mg calcium per day may actually reduce the risk of kidney stones. If a supplement is needed to get 1200 mg per day, calcium citrate taken with the evening meal may be best. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids to keep you urine dilute. Consult with your personal physician if you have any special concerns.

What about vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphate?

Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium. It is not necessary to take vitamin D at the exact same time you take the calcium. Magnesium and phosphate are also important for good health, but most of us do not need to take supplements.