Calcium Supplements: Are They Worth It?

It’s a widely known fact that calcium improves bone health, and that calcium deficiency often leads to osteoporosis. Millions of American seniors are taking calcium and other supplements daily, regardless of diet. Previous recommendations were from 1000 to 1200 milligrams of calcium per day. But do these supplements actually make a difference?

Recent studies have undermined previous claims that calcium supplements improve bone health and prevent fractures. Two British Medical Journal studies have shown that calcium supplements only increased bone density in seniors by 0.6% and 2% over a period of 2 years, a difference researchers say is statistically insignificant and does not lead to reduction of the risk for bone fractures.

In fact, consuming excess calcium may lead to greater risk of unwanted side effects, such as gastrointestinal distress, kidney stones, and even heart attack. A third study even found that seniors who consumed at least 800 mg of calcium daily were actually more likely to develop AMD, or age-related macular degeneration.

Experts say that in order to actually benefit from calcium, supplements may not be the best way to go. However, that doesn’t mean cutting calcium out entirely. Instead, researchers suggested getting the necessary amount of calcium from a balanced diet with foods that naturally contain the vitamins that are manufactured into supplements.

Dairy products like milk and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, but you can find this vitamin in many other foods that are also great staples of a healthy, balanced diet. Kelly Pritchett, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics, recommends three daily servings of calcium-rich foods in order to experience the benefits of the nutrient. Sources of calcium include:

  • Collard greens, kale, broccoli, and spinach
  • Sardines, salmon, and rainbow trout
  • Tofu
  • Soybeans and white beans

Vitamin D is also an important nutrient as it helps the body absorb calcium, the best source of which is spending time in the sun. Foods that naturally contain safe amounts of vitamin D include egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, and fatty fish like tuna or salmon.

If you’re unsure if you’ve been getting enough bone-strengthening nutrients in your daily diet, talk to your doctor about scheduling a bone density scan. Also known as a DEXA scan, this test can help diagnose osteoporosis and even the risk of fractures. ZendyHealth works with qualified providers who offer DEXA scans, and can help you save up to 40% on what you’d normally pay.

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