Calcium is an essential dietary mineral commonly found in milk, yogurt, cheese, and dark green vegetables. It also is found in certain grains, legumes (including peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts), and nuts. Calcium is a major component of bones and teeth. It also is required for the clotting of blood to stop bleeding and for normal functioning of nerves, muscles, and heart.
Calcium supplements most often contain either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate, which are calcium salts. Sometimes, they contain both compounds. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate have different amounts of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of usable calcium in a supplement. As with food labels, you should look at the Nutrition Facts label on a supplement to determine how much calcium it contains.
Though the results have not always been consistent, there have been several studies that have shown that calcium may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, as well as other cancers.
Calcium is an important part of a healthy diet; however, the recommended intake differs according to age. The highest recommended intake is for children and adolescents between the ages of 9 and 18, when bones are growing rapidly.
Instructions for taking a calcium supplement will differ based on the product but generally, you will take the supplement with meals and at no more than 500-600 mg at a time. You should also be wary of taking calcium supplements at the same time as an iron supplement, if you are taking both.
Consult with your physician before taking a supplement and be sure to take your diet into account to ensure that you are not adding too much calcium to your daily intake.
Consuming too much calcium can lead to side effects and often happens when patients are taking too many supplements. It is always advised to consult with your physician before taking supplements and to take your diet into account.
Rare side effects include kidney stones, hypercalcemia, and kidney failure. Some studies show that too much calcium is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks.