How much calcium is enough?

By • Published: August 2nd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For strong bones and teeth, you may want to drink your milk… and eat your spinach and soybeans.

Although dairy products such as cheese and yogurt might be the first calcium-rich foods that pop into your mind, plenty of other foods, from salmon to oatmeal, also have the mineral.

While it’s true that the main sources of calcium in most folks’ diets are dairy products, some foods are fortified with calcium, like orange juice and cereals.

Some people opt for calcium supplements for an extra boost, particularly older women, who are more likely to lose bone and develop osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become porous and break easily.

That’s because after menopause, women produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps prevent bone loss. In the United States, about ten-million people have osteoporosis. Eighty percent of them are women fifty and older.

But with calcium-fortified foods, supplements and the abundance of already calcium-rich foods in our bellies, it begs the question: How much calcium is too much? A report issued last fall by the Institute of Medicine sheds light on the issue and provides new guidelines for calcium supplementation.

National surveys in both the United States and Canada showed that most people receive enough calcium, with the exception of girls ages nine to eighteen, who often do not take in enough of the mineral.

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the human body, is needed for normal bone development. However, a person can get too much of a good thing.

Those taking supplements may be getting too much calcium, thereby increasing their risk for kidney stones and blood vessel calcification that can result in stroke or heart attacks. Risks increase when calcium intake exceeds two-thousand milligrams per day.

So eat your dairy, greens and protein to be sure to get your calcium… just don’t overdo it.