NYS Certified Nutritionist

Questions Raised About the Safety of Calcium Supplements

An essential mineral, calcium is used for nerve conduction, bone density, and muscle contraction.  Our store-house of calcium is our bones.  As calcium is needed for these important functions, hormones tell the bones to release calcium into the blood making it available for use in those important functions.  Thus, it is important to consume enough calcium [and Vitamin D] to ensure the integrity of our skeleton.

With adults requiring 1,000-1,200 mg. of calcium per day, some people turn to supplements to meet this goal.  A series of studies have begun to question the safety of this practice, including one sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.  Published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the 10-year study detected a 22% higher risk of plaque buildup in the arteries of the subjects getting much of their calcium from of supplements, compared to those getting their calcium exclusively from food.

The researchers suspect, especially in older people, all supplemental calcium may not get to the skeleton, and the excess may not be fully excreted.  Rather, it begins to accumulate on the artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease.  The good news is that skim milk dairy products, calcium set tofu, kale, the bones in canned salmon, and almonds can provide generous amounts of naturally occurring calcium.  If you do take a calcium supplement, choose one that provides no more than 350 mg. per dose, spreading out the doses throughout the day, and taking them with food.  The total number of milligrams of calcium from supplements and food should not exceed 1,200 which is well within the tolerable upper level established for safety…set at 2,000-2,500 mg. per day.

Armed with this information, you can make the best choices when it comes to protecting your arteries.