Calcium Supplements – How Much Is Too Much?

Calcium Supplements


Calcium is essential for strong bones. While calcium is best obtained from our diets, calcium supplementation may be necessary in some cases. The blog discusses all you need to know about calcium supplementation.


Calcium is important for strong bones – this is a fact that everyone is aware of. Our diet is the best way for our body to get the calcium it needs. However, sometimes the calcium obtained through our diets is not enough and in such cases calcium supplements may be prescribed.

The Importance of Adequate Calcium

Other than for bone strength, calcium is needed for the proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves. There is speculation that calcium along with vitamin D could play a role in preventing cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, this is yet to be proved.

Inadequate Calcium

  • If children do not get enough calcium, they might not reach the adult height they could otherwise achieve.
  • Children can also be afflicted with rickets if the body’s calcium and vitamin D requirements are not met. The condition causes bone pain, affects bone growth and the bones could become soft and weak thus increasing chances of deformities.
  • Adults with calcium deficiency have an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Calcium Requirement

The amount of calcium a person needs depends on factors like age and sex. The dosage advice also varies from country to country so it is best to ask your orthopedic doctor about it. Usually, 700-1000 mg is recommended for adults but for post-menopausal women and elderly men, up to 1200 mg might be advised.

Foods That Contain Calcium

  • Milk and milk products (cheese and yogurt) are good sources of calcium.
  • For those who don’t take milk, soya milk would be a good option.
  • Tofu is a good source of calcium for vegans.
  • Green leafy vegetables too are rich in calcium.
  • Figs can be added to salads to increase calcium intake.
  • Seeds like chia and poppy seeds, soya beans, green beans and red millets are good sources of calcium.
  • Non-vegetarians can include fish with bones (like canned sardines and salmon) to meet calcium requirements.

To absorb calcium, the body also needs adequate vitamin D. Sunlight is the most natural way to get vitamin D. Foods rich in vitamin D are fatty fish, fish liver oil, egg yolk and cheese. Vegetarians can look out for foods that are fortified with vitamin D.

When Is Calcium Supplementation Necessary?

Sometimes, in spite of following a balanced diet, we may not be getting the calcium we need. This typically happens in the following cases:

  • When a vegan diet is being followed
  • When milk consumption is stopped due to lactose intolerance or other reasons
  • When we eat a sodium or protein-rich diet which can lead to the body excreting calcium
  • Have health conditions which necessitate intake of corticosteroids
  • Have health conditions which affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium

It is best to discuss the need for calcium supplements and their dosage with your doctor before starting them as they have to be altered according to an individual’s requirement.

Effects of Excess Supplementation

Sometimes, when we are getting enough calcium from our diet and are also supplementing calcium, it may lead to increased calcium levels in the blood (hypercalcemia). In such cases, the following symptoms may be seen:

  • Bone pain
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Excessive urination or thirst
  • Digestive problems like nausea, vomiting, constipation, etc.
  • Muscle cramps
  • Kidney stones
  • Palpitations and arrhythmias

However, when the supplementation is stopped, the symptoms may resolve on their own. Left untreated, serious consequences may occur.

How to Avoid Excess Calcium

There are some simple things we can do to avoid calcium overload.

  • Drink enough water.
  • Be mindful of how much calcium you are consuming – if you are eating a calcium-rich diet along with calcium supplementation, your daily calcium intake can reach the target quite quickly.
  • Calcium rich antacids should not be taken too frequently. Talk to your doctor regarding alternatives.

Calcium Supplements

  • Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are the two most common calcium supplements.
  • Calcium carbonate has more elemental calcium compared to citrate. Elemental calcium is the actual calcium that will be absorbed by the body so it is important to pay attention to this when choosing calcium supplements.
  • Calcium carbonate has 40% elemental calcium. This means that in 1250 mg of calcium carbonate, the elemental calcium quantity is 500 mg.
  • Some calcium supplements are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Always check before buying, especially if there are other health/dietary restrictions to be considered.
  • The side-effects of calcium supplements are few. Some people might experience constipation, bloating or gas. Choose a supplement that is accepted well by your body.
  • If you are on medication for other conditions like hypertension, thyroid conditions, etc. talk to your doctor about which supplement would be preferred.
  • Other than the chewable form, the supplements are also available as capsules, liquids and powders.
  • The benefits of calcium supplements are realized when they are taken in controlled quantities at mealtimes.

Healthy Bones

It would be best to get the calcium that our body needs from our diet. With a little effort, this is definitely possible. Doing weight bearing exercises increases bone strength. Just staying active through the day by walking to nearby places, taking the stairs, etc. has been shown to contribute to bone health.

However, if you are concerned about meeting your calcium requirements, do talk to your doctor who will be able to guide you about calcium supplementation.

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