You probably already realize the importance of getting adequate calcium in your diet. Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the human body and is necessary for normal cellular function as well as for contraction of skeletal muscle. It also plays an important role in the function of the most important muscle in the human body, the heart. Calcium is also critical for building and maintaining bone mass and can have an impact on blood pressure. It’s obvious that calcium is a critical mineral for almost all aspects of bodily function. But more isn’t always better. Could you be taking too much calcium?
Could you be taking too much calcium?
Most adults need around 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day with pregnant women needing more and children needing less. Although dairy products are often cited as the best source of calcium, kelp, sardine, shrimp, kale, and almonds are also excellent sources. If you eat an adequate diet that includes dairy products, there’s a good chance that you’re getting your daily calcium requirements. Some people also add additional calcium by using calcium supplements. In some cases, this can result in the intake of too much calcium.
What are the effects of too much calcium?
One of the minor effects of too much calcium is constipation. Although this may be an annoyance, it certainly isn’t life threatening. In persons who have kidney disease or a history of kidney stones, too much calcium can present more of a problem and levels may need to be more closely monitored. Although most healthy people will excrete excess calcium in the urine when excess calcium is taken in, there is a recent study that suggests too much calcium could be a problem even in apparently healthy people.
This study, published in the British Medical Journal in January of 2008 showed that at least in older women, taking too much calcium in the form of supplements may increase the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. It’s thought that supplemental calcium may contribute to calcification of the arteries leading to an increased risk of both stroke and heart attack. Although this data needs more study before an association can be confirmed, it’s certainly something to consider if you’re a woman using calcium supplements.
The best advice based on the data that’s available may be to eat a calcium rich diet and avoid taking supplements until more data becomes available. If you’re a woman at high risk of osteoporosis, you’ll want to discuss this with your doctor and follow his or her advice on the use of calcium supplements.