Calcium Questions

How much calcium do I need? The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1200-1500 mg calcium per day for all adults. To put this in perspective, there are about 1200 mg of calcium in a quart of milk, 3 cups of low-fat yogurt, or 6 oz. of cheddar cheese.

Can I take too much calcium? Yes, but it is rarely a problem. If you take very large amounts of calcium (more than 3000-4000 mg per day), it may increase your risk of kidney stones.

What kind of calcium is best? Any brand name or generic calcium product that meets USP standards (usually listed on the label) is probably fine. Most people begin with calcium carbonate, which is generally the least expensive and most widely available. The real problem is getting enough calcium, not what kind of calcium you take.

How do I take the calcium? Calcium carbonate should be taken with a meal or snack. Calcium citrate may be taken with food or on an empty stomach. To assure maximum absorption, it is best to divide the calcium intake during the day, so that you do not take any more than 500-600 mg at one time.

How do I know if the calcium is being absorbed? If you are unsure about the quality of the calcium you are taking, do the vinegar test. Put your calcium product in a half glass of white vinegar, to duplicate acid conditions in the stomach, stir and wait one-half hour. The calcium should be broken down into a slurry of fine particles. If it remains intact and unchanged, then don’t take it.

What do I do if calcium bothers my stomach? If calcium carbonate upsets your stomach, then try calcium citrate. If you become constipated, then take a calcium product that contains magnesium, which is a natural laxative.

Can I take calcium if I have had a kidney stone? Yes. Even people with kidney stones need calcium to have strong bones. Calcium citrate may be preferred type of calcium for those with kidney stones. It is important to drink plenty of liquids to keep you urine dilute. Consult with your personal physician if you have any special concerns.

What about vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphate? Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium, and is contained in some calcium products. However, it is not necessary to take vitamin D at the exact same time you take the calcium. Magnesium and phosphate are also important for good health, but most of us do not need to take supplements to get enough.

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