Safety of calcium supplements questioned – how much is enough?

One thing is beyond dispute – whatever the age, we all need calcium to make our teeth and bones strong. Calcium is also required to make our muscles and nerves function. Calcium is also a necessary factor for blood clotting.

Although these facts are well known, many people continue to be deficient in their calcium intake and hence in their body’s total calcium requirement. This leads to bad teeth and osteoporosis, bone fractures and its nasty complications.

On the other hand, studies have shown that too much calcium is not good for your health. But how much is enough? There is no agreement on that.

-In Britain, women over 50 are urged to consume 700 milligrams a day.
-In Scandinavia the level is set at 800 mg.
-In the United States and Canada it’s 1,200 mg.

-In Australia and New Zealand top the list with 1,300 mg.

A Swedish study published in the British Medical Journal found that women who consumed less than 700 mg of calcium a day had a higher risk of fractures than those who took in larger amounts. But an intake of more than 700 mg per day didn’t seem to provide any additional protection. The results suggest that there are no further benefits to taking more than 700 mg. of calcium every day.

Some studies have suggested that taking calcium supplements (but not calcium from food) may increase a woman’s chances of developing heart disease. Other studies have suggest that calcium may play an important role in the development of prostate cancer but evidence also shows calcium may lower the risk of colon cancer and age-related thinning of the bones.

Men are also prone to getting osteoporosis. In women, bone loss begins before menopause and is accelerated in old age. So prevention is better than cure.

One glass of milk contains 300 mg of calcium. About 175 ml of plain yogurt and 42 grams of cheese each contain about 300 mg of calcium. You can get enough calcium on a daily basis just by drinking milk and enjoying natural yogurt and cheese.

And don’t forget your vitamin D 1000 to 2000 IU per day especially in winter months. Vitamin D has an important role in preventing prostate cancer and other cancers.

A report published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society says vitamin D, taken in a high dose, may help prevent falls in the elderly. The study shows that nursing home residents who took a daily dose of 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D for five months were less likely to fall than those who took either lower doses or no vitamin D.

Another paper reviewed 29 observational studies and concluded that in North America, a projected 50 per cent reduction in colon and breast cancer incidence would require a universal intake of 2,000 to 3,500 IU per day of vitamin D.

A third report came out in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This review paper analyzed the results of 18 vitamin D studies says that taking vitamin D supplements may help people live longer. But it’s not yet clear exactly how vitamin D does that. But it appears to be a life extender.

Don’t be confused now. Eat a healthy balanced diet, take vitamin D and do regular exercise. Talk to your doctor to find out what is the best dose of calcium and vitamin D for you. Then sit on a recliner and enjoy a cold or hot glass of milk. Sounds like a good idea to me.

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