What Are The Benefits Of A Calcium Supplement, And Who Might Need To Take It?

Victoria Maizes, M.D, Arizona

Question: What are the benefits of a calcium supplement, and who might need to take it?

Answer: Supplemental calcium has been a longstanding recommendation for healthy bones. It turns out that many people don't get the recommended 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium in their diet. The chief sources of calcium in the diet are dairy products. A serving of milk -- an eight-ounce glass of milk, for example -- would have 300 milligrams. A yogurt would have a similar amount as would a hard cheese. Other sources are leafy greens, almonds, figs... all good sources of calcium, and we need calcium to build strong bones.

It may turn out that vitamin D is the critical part of the formula in how well our body utilizes the calcium that we get in either diet or supplements. So, some women do need to take additional calcium to get to that recommended 1,200 milligrams. Men, on the other hand, should probably not take additional calcium because it increases their risk of prostate cancer.

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