Do I need a calcium supplement?

Posted August 2nd, 2011 by Kirrian Steer and filed in Uncategorized

Calcium intake is an important part of osteoporosis prevention, however a recent study conducted in Sweden and published in the British Medical Journal (1), indicates that a high daily intake of calcium is not necessarily better for your bone health.

The results suggested that a moderate daily calcium intake is optimal for bone health. The study looked at the relationship between calcium intake and overall bone health and risk of fractures. The results of this study demonstrated that only women who had the lowest intake of calcium below 750mg a day were at an increased risk of fracture. It was also demonstrated that women with the highest daily intake of calcium above 1100mg a day had an increased risk of hip fractures. The results demonstrated the importance of a moderate calcium intake for bone health and that a high daily intake may in fact be detrimental to bone health and fracture prevention.

For optimal bone health, a recommended daily allowance of calcium between 1000-1200mg is advised. Most women will get approximately 700mg from diet alone, so supplementation should be between 500-600mg a day. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set a recommended dietary allowance for calcium which includes a combination of diet and supplements; set at 1000mg a day for adult women until age 50 years and 1200mg a day for women over 50 years2.

It is important to gain much of your calcium intake from your diet. This is achievable by including dairy products (the best source of calcium), canned fish with bones for example sardines and salmon, leafy greens and fortified foods such as fortified cereals and juices in your diet.

It should also be noted that Vitamin D is essential for the development and maintenance of bone. It assists calcium absorption from food in the intestine. For most people the main source of Vitamin D is from sunlight exposure.

If you think you may need a calcium supplement please talk to your healthcare practitioner who will be able to provide personalised advice after considering your lifestyle, diet and medical history.


1 Warensjo E, Byberg L, Melhus H, et al. Dietary calcium intake and risk of fracture and osteoporosis: prospective longitudinal cohort study. BMJ. 2011;342:d1473

2 Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. Report brief, November 2010.