Calcium. It comes up in my practice all the time.
The scare tactics surrounding this particular nutrient have been particularly aggressive in recent years. And as usual, studies have contradicted themselves, over and over again.
Some research says calcium supplementation is safe for women’s heart health, but not men’s. Other studies say too much or too little could be a killer for women. And most recently, reports show that calcium supplementation doesn’t pose a risk to either men or women.
But regardless of any of these findings, one thing is certain. Calcium plays a lot of critical roles in your body—bone health and fracture prevention, chief among them. So you need ample intake to be healthy. Especially if you’re a post-menopausal woman.
So if you’re having a hard time knowing what to believe when it comes to safe supplementation, join the club. It’s been confusing—even for me.
That’s why I’m pleased to share the latest addition to this body of research with you today.
The latest meta-analysis looked at data from 18 clinical reports and more than 63,500 elderly women. And it found absolutely no relationship between calcium supplementation and heart disease risk, whether those supplements were paired with vitamin D or not. (And for the record, they should be—but I’ll get back to that in a moment.)
Data from this latest analysis showed 3,390 heart disease deaths and 4,157 deaths from any cause among the women. But there wasn’t a statistically significant link with calcium supplementation in any of them.
At the very least, I hope this new conclusion helps ease some of your fears in the face of a controversy that just doesn’t want to go away.
It certainly proves to me that I should just follow my instincts when it comes to recommending nutritional supplements. Because, unfortunately, far too many scientists are still pretty clueless when it comes to studying them.
So with that, let me just get to the part you’ve been waiting for—my calcium recommendations for women.
All women should get at least 1,000 mg of calcium daily until menopause—then you should be getting closer 1,200 mg per day. (More, if you’re at risk of osteoporosis.) So I typically recommend 500 mg of calcium in supplement form per day, along with ample dietary sources of this nutrient. Kale, sardines, salmon, and cheese are some of my favorites.
For bone health, I also recommend supplementing with magnesium—about 500 mg per day. As well as vitamin K2, at 90 mcg per day.
Then, of course, there’s vitamin D. I always urge taking at least 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Your age impacts your ability to form vitamin D from sun exposure. So especially if you’re older, a supplement—with a dose as high as 10,000 IU daily—is almost always going to be necessary. And it’s also completely safe, provided you’re working with a doctor who is testing your levels regularly. Just remember that a level of 30 is only barely sufficient. I always aim closer to 80.
“Calcium/CVD Risk Debate Gets New Fodder From Analysis.” Medscape. Apr 11, 2014.
“The effects of calcium supplementation on coronary heart disease hospitalisation and death in postmenopausal women: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, and Musculoskeletal Disease; April 5, 2014; Seville, Spain