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Summary: What You Need to Know About Calcium Supplements
It is important that you get an adequate amount of calcium, as it is essential to maintaining your bones and plays critical roles in nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and your cardiovascular system. In fact, getting sufficient calcium each day (1,000 to 1,200 mg for adults) may decrease your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. For details, see What It Does.
You may already get enough calcium in your diet from dairy, beans, green-leafy vegetables, and other foods. In fact, with the exception of girls ages 9 to 18, most individuals take in enough calcium from what they eat. For the recommended intakes of calcium and to learn how much you may already get from food, see What to Consider When Using.
If you're not getting enough calcium from your diet, supplements can help. Calcium supplements have shown some modest benefits for postmenopausal women, particularly those on hormonal therapy after hysterectomy (see What It Does). But be careful! Calcium from supplements may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke if you get too much from supplements (generally over 1,000 mg per day) or if you already get at least 805 mg of calcium from your diet. Calcium supplements also increase the risk of kidney stones in postmenopausal women. See Concerns and Cautions for more information.
How much calcium to take? Since you can't absorb more than about 500 mg of calcium at a time, consider limiting intake from supplements to 500 mg or less at a time and, certainly, no more than 1,000 mg total per day. Also, be sure you are getting enough vitamin D, as it is necessary for your body to absorb and utilize calcium from both foods and supplements and may reduce some of the risks associated with calcium supplements. Vitamin D is in many of the supplements tested in this Review. For extensive information about vitamin D, see the Vitamin D Supplements Review.
Which supplement is best? This depends, first, on your particular needs. Use the Results table below to narrow in on products which provide the right amount of calcium and other ingredients to meet your needs. Be sure focus on products which have been approved by ConsumerLab.com because not all supplements are properly made and live up to their ingredient claims. Then compare prices in the last column of the table -- you can get some good products for just pennies a day. Taking these factors into consideration, ConsumerLab selected several Top Picks for calcium supplements.
When to take calcium? If your calcium supplement includes vitamin D and/or vitamin K, take it with the meal that contains most fats and oils, as this may increase absorption of those vitamins. Otherwise, you can take calcium with any meal, but don't take it at the same time that you take other mineral supplements as the calcium may reduce their absorption. If you are taking calcium citrate, you may be able to take it with or without food. Follow the directions on the supplement.
You must be a member to get the full test results along with ConsumerLab.com's recommendations and quality ratings. You will get results for 15 calcium supplements selected by ConsumerLab.com and 5 others that passed testing in its voluntary Quality Certification Program.
In this comprehensive review, you'll discover:
Which calcium supplements failed our quality ratings and which passed -- including combinations with vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium
CL's Top Picks for calcium supplements
Cost comparisons to help you choose a calcium supplement offering the best value based on amounts of elemental calcium
The pros and cons of different forms of calcium such as carbonate, citrate, gluconate, oyster shell, coral calcium and plant-based calcium --and which may be best for you
How much calcium you may already be getting from foods and other sources, such as antacids taken for heartburn
Recommendations on calcium dosage by age and gender and for specific uses, as well as how much calcium may be too much and how best to take calcium supplements
The best way to take calcium supplements and what to look for on labels
Potential drug interactions and side effects of calcium supplements
Question: I was surprised when my doctor told me to stop taking supplements because my kidney function was low. But after stopping the supplements, my kidney function returned to normal. Can taking a lot of supplements really damage the kidneys? Get the answer >>
Question: I have low blood pressure. Are there any supplements I should avoid? Get the answer >>
Question: Is there cause for concern with "gummy vitamins?" There are many different gummies out there. Are some better than others? Get the answer >>
Question: Is it safer to get calcium from foods than from supplements? How about from calcium-fortified orange juice and non-dairy milks? Get the answer >>
Question: Are plant-based calcium supplements, like AlgaeCal, better than regular calcium supplements? Get the answer >>
Question: Are there negative interactions between the following supplements I take twice each day, as well as 60 mg of beta-sitosterol with dinner: Vitamin C (500 mg), CoQ10 (100 mg), grape seed extract (100 mg), fish oil (500 mg), vitamin D3/calcium/magnesium/zinc (200 IU/333 mg/113 mg/5mg)? Get the answer >>
Question: I've read of dangers from taking calcium supplements -- such as the risk of developing arterial calcifications. I can't seem to find a multivitamin without calcium. Can you help me? Get the answer >>
Question: Does taking one slow-release calcium tablet of 600 mg (such as Citracal) per day pose a risk for heart disease? Get the answer >>
Question: Which supplements reduce the risk of stroke? Which increase the risk of stroke? Get the answer >>
Question: I have milk allergy and can't eat dairy. What's the best way for me to get calcium? Get the answer >>
Question: Which supplements can help with indigestion and/or heartburn? Get the answer >>
Question: Do any supplements help reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)? Get the answer >>
Question: Is it true that calcium interferes with iron absorption? Is it a problem to take a multivitamin containing both minerals? Get the answer >>
Question: After developing kidney stones, I was told to avoid tea -- but recently I've heard that green tea might actually be helpful for kidney stones. Is that true? Get the answer >>
Question: Is it true that calcium citrate increases the absorption of aluminum? Get the answer >>
Question: Which dietary supplements and health foods contain high levels of lead? Get the answer >>
Question: What is Prelief? Does it really help for heartburn and/or bladder pain from acidic foods? Get the answer >>
Question: I read an article stating that some of the ingredients in Centrum multivitamins may be dangerous or toxic. Is that true? Get the answer >>
Question: I am having trouble sleeping. I regularly take a multivitamin, fish oil, magnesium, calcium, vitamins D and K, and a protein supplement. I also take a low-dose blood pressure medication. Could any of these supplements be causing my insomnia? Get the answer >>
Question: I enjoy oat milk in my coffee, but how healthy is it for me? Get the answer >>
Question: Are the "% DV" numbers on vitamin supplement labels really based on what I need? Get the answer >>
Question: Are there any supplements I should avoid when taking an antibiotic? Are there any that may be helpful? Get the answer >>