Initial Posting: 8/23/2015    Last Update: 8/15/2019
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 like orange juice, soy milk, almond milk, and even calcium-fortified milks like certain lactose-free milks — which are like taking a supplement with food). (A common form of calcium added to these beverages, as well as to gummy and liquid supplements, is calcium phosphate or tricalcium phosphate.) 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 of adverse effects increase — although it is rare to exceed this limit from food alone.