We all need calcium but check the facts before taking a supplement

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies, vital for building and maintaining strong bones as well as helping our heart, muscles and nerves to ­function properly.

Although eating a balanced, healthy diet is the best way to get enough ­calcium, sometimes supplements may be necessary if your diet falls short of the amount required.

We all need calcium but exactly how much depends on our age, gender and any health condition we might have.

Government guidance for calcium suggests most adults need around 700mg of calcium every day.

If you eat a normal balanced diet including plenty of calcium-rich foods (dairy, green leafy veg) then you’re likely to be getting enough.

Most health professionals recognise it’s usually best to assess what you’re getting naturally before taking ­supplements. It’s unlikely that taking extra calcium as a supplement is going to help strengthen your bones unless your intake of calcium is very low.

It’s a misunderstanding that ­osteoporosis is a disease of “calcium deficiency” and having a high calcium intake will guard against the condition.


It isn’t and it won’t. That’s because osteoporosis is a disease of protein deficiency in the bone, not calcium deficiency. Extra dietary calcium isn’t harmful. However, getting more ­calcium than you need from ­supplements can have side-effects such as nausea, constipation and an upset or bloated stomach.

There may be a link between ­calcium supplements and heart ­disease. Taking high doses of calcium as a supplement might slightly raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

A high calcium intake from food and drink, however, doesn’t seem to ­increase heart attack risk. Plus, taking more calcium than is recommended isn’t necessarily better.

Extra calcium doesn’t give extra bone protection. Evidence shows that food is the best source of calcium, and not supplements.

To be on the safe side it makes sense to get calcium from your diet as far as possible, and if a supplement is ­necessary, to top it to a level that’s ­recommended. So it’s important to be careful to avoid excessive calcium.

Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you. They will ensure you’re getting sufficient calcium, ­especially if you’re taking osteoporosis drugs.

There are a few types of calcium supplement on the market from ­chewable tablets to fizzy drinks, but research hasn’t shown any one type is better for your bones than another.

All supplements can increase your calcium intake. Doctors, however, sometimes prescribe supplements ­because you’re taking osteoporosis drugs and they want to be sure you’re getting enough calcium.