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Question:
Is it safer to get calcium from foods than from supplements? How about from calcium-fortified orange juice and non-dairy milks?

Answer:
In general, it appears to be preferable to get most of your calcium from foods which contain it naturally, and to restrict the amount you get from supplements (including calcium-fortified drinks and foods — which are like taking a supplement with food). For example, getting too much calcium from supplements has been associated with an increased risk of kidney stones, heart attack and death in women, and an increase in the risk of heart attack in men. Taking calcium supplements has also been associated with an increased risk of dementia in elderly women who have evidence of cerebrovascular disease or who have a history of stroke. Nevertheless, calcium from all sources counts toward the upper tolerable intake level (UL) above which the risk adverse effects increase — although it is rare to exceed this limit from food alone.

If you are considering taking a calcium supplement, be sure to calculate how much calcium you are already getting from food, and from other sources, such as over-the-counter antacids, and then only supplement with the amount you need to meet the recommended daily intake. For more about getting the right amount of calcium, sources and different forms, and our tests of popular products, see the Calcium Supplements Review >>

Also see these related CL Answers:

Is there a danger of getting too much calcium from Tums? I take them frequently for heartburn. >>

Are plant-based calcium supplements, like AlgaeCal, better than regular calcium supplements? >>

Is calcium hydroxyapatite really better than other forms of calcium? >>

Is it important to take calcium and magnesium together? >>

Is it better to get vitamins from foods or supplements, and are natural vitamins better than synthetic vitamins? >>


See other recent and popular questions >>
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