It’s been hammered into our heads since we before we were even born: calcium helps with muscle function, maintains heart rhythms, but most of all, it leads to strong bones. But for those who don’t drink milk and instead get their calcium from supplements, it might not. In fact, it might be the exact opposite. That’s right, milk may do a body good, but calcium supplements can potentially do a body bad.
While dietary calcium is still good for bone health, two studies have found that taking supplements isn’t exactly going to prevent fractures or boost bone density as people get older.The researchers also point out that too much calcium increases the risk of kidney stones and possibly heart attacks. They’re encouraging governments to lower the recommended daily limit from a maximum 1,300 mg per day for adults to 800 mg.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, says that calcium supplements have little to no effect on the overall risk of fractures. They concluded that most people should get enough calcium through a normal diet. That is, if they’re following what the Canadian Food Guide suggests. The Guide recommends that those over the age of 50 have three servings of milk and alternatives such as yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified beverages, puddings and custards. So that’s essentially one good serving of dairy at breakfast, lunch and dinner. For people under 50, two servings will suffice.
Those intolerant to dairy or prefer to avoid it can turn to other alternatives including calcium-fortified soy, almond and rice beverages, calcium-fortified orange juice and canned salmon or sardines. Just check the nutrition labels beforehand so you know how much you’re getting. Also, foods rich in calcium include vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, soya beans, nuts, and anything made with fortified flour. Dr. Ian Reid, one of the lead authors of the studies, did admit to CTV News that it would probably take a while for doctors and dieticians to adjust to the new evidence.
While some European countries have begun lowering their daily recommended intake, Dr. Sandra Kim from Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital told CTV that people need to slow their roll. “We want people to not jump to conclusions and realize that these articles don’t really change our main message,” she said. “We know that it doesn’t prevent fractures, but adequate calcium intake is vital for general bone health.”
Take this with a grain of
milk salt. This isn’t permission to eliminate the dairy and anything calcium-y. Most of you can probably continue with how you’ve been consuming dairy and will be just fine. And to those taking supplements, a little tinkering never hurt anyone’s diet.