Calcium is the most plentiful mineral found in the human body. The teeth and bones contain the most calcium. Nerve cells, body tissues, blood, and other body fluids contain the rest of the calcium.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for the the human body. Calcium helps form and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Proper levels of calcium over a lifetime can help prevent osteoporosis.
Calcium helps your body with:
CALCIUM AND DAIRY PRODUCTS
Many foods contain calcium, but dairy products are the best source. Milk and dairy products such as yogurt, cheeses, and buttermilk contain a form of calcium that your body can absorb easily.
Whole milk (4% fat) is recommended for children ages 1 to 2. Adults and children over the age of 2 should drink low-fat (2% or 1%) or skim milk and other dairy products. Removing the fat will not lower the amount of calcium in a dairy product.
OTHER SOURCES OF CALCIUM
Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, and bok choy or Chinese cabbage are good sources of calcium.
Other sources of calcium that can help meet your body's calcium needs:
Calcium is added to several food products, such as orange juice, soy milk, tofu, ready-to-eat cereals, and breads. These are a very good source of calcium for persons who do not eat a lot of dairy products or who are on a vegan diet.
Ways to make sure you receive or absorb the calcium in your diet:
Calcium is also found in many multivitamin-mineral supplements. The amount varies depending on the. supplement. Dietary supplements may contain only calcium or calcium with other nutrients such as vitamin D. Check the label on the Supplement Facts panel to determine the amount of calcium. Calcium absorption is best when taken in amounts of no more than 500 mg at a time.
Two commonly available forms of calcium dietary supplements include citrate and carbonate.
Other types of calcium in supplements and foods include lactate, gluconate, and phosphate.
Increased calcium for a limited period of time does not normally cause side effects. However, receiving higher amounts of calcium over a long period of time raises the risk of kidney stones in some people.
Those who do not receive enough calcium over a long period of time can develop osteoporosis (thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time). Other disorders are also possible.
Persons with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar in milk. Over-the-counter products are available that make it easier to digest lactose. You can also buy lactose-free milk at most grocery stores.
Tell your health care provider about any dietary supplements and medicines you take. Your provider can tell you if those dietary supplements might interact or interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medicines. In addition, some medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs calcium.
The preferred source of calcium is calcium-rich foods such as dairy products. Some people will need to take calcium supplements.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins and minerals reflects how much of each vitamin or mineral most people should get each day. The RDA for vitamins and minerals may be used to help create the goal for each person.
How much calcium you need depends on your age and gender. Other factors, such as pregnancy and illnesses, are also important.
Infants (Adequate Intake)
Children and Adolescents
Pregnancy and Breast-feeding
Up to 2,500 - 3,000 mg a day of calcium from dietary sources and supplements appears to be safe for children and adolescents, and 2,000 - 2,500 mg a day appears to be safe for adults.
The following list can help you determine how much calcium you are getting from food:
Vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium. When choosing calcium supplements, look for ones that also contain vitamin D.
Diet - calcium
Escott-Stump S, ed. Nutrition and Diagnosis Related Care. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2008.
Sarubin Fragaakis A, Thomson C. The Health Professional's Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements. 3rd ed. Chicago, Il:American Dietetic Association;2007.
Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2010.
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. Accessed February 12, 2013.
Updated by: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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