What’s Up with Calcium in 2018?

For years, U.S. medical guidelines have been encouraging premenopausal adult women to take 1,200 mg of calcium supplementation each day and postmenopausal women to take 1,200 to 1,500 mg of calcium per day. Men were encouraged to take calcium supplementation as well. Currently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines do not recommend taking calcium supplements. 

The original 1,200 & 1,500 mg guideline was set up prior to the current day agreed- upon concept to not make guidelines until there was controlled study proof to specifically back up the recommendation(s).

This guideline was extremely well intended but has turned out to be not so good advice.

“The vast majority of studies on calcium supplements show that taking in extra calcium does not prevent bone fractures and that the extra calcium in pills may form plaques in arteries and stones in kidneys.”

Increased risk for heart attacks

Increased risk for heart attacksCalcium in pill form may increase risk for coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks. In an American Heart Association Journal article, researchers at UNC and Johns Hopkins found that “calcium supplement (pill) use was associated with a 22% increase in risk in incident coronary artery calcification (plaque).” The higher the amount of plaque formation, the higher is the risk for heart attacks and stroke.

Do women (and men) need calcium? Absolutely! How much we don’t know. It’s effective and safe when calcium is obtained via one’s diet, not by pills. Calcium absorption in the diet leads to a stable blood level without a spike in the calcium level in the blood, which could drive calcium into arterial walls forming plaque and precipitate calcium out in the kidneys, leading to an increase in kidney stones.

The AHA study found that folks getting large amounts of calcium in their diet versus taking pills were 27% less likely to have plaque buildup in their arteries. 

Increased risk of dementia

Increased risk of dementiaCalcium supplements have also been linked to a higher risk of dementia in women. Dr. Silke Kern, a neuroscience researcher at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, found that women who regularly took calcium supplements were 7 times more likely to develop dementia over 5 years. More research is needed to confirm the specifics of this association.

Diet is key

Diet is keySo, what if your diet is calcium poor? If you’re on a diet eating only lettuce and seaweed, you may not be getting enough calcium. The best way to fix this is your diet.  No one in The Villages® is malnourished, so this issue is not likely to happen. Virtually all diets include vegetables and dairy, so any non-malnourished person in The Villages should be okay if eating an ample supply of vegetables and dairy products.

What foods are rich in calcium? Dairy products and leafy green vegetables are the best. An average dairy serving may provide approximately 300 mg of calcium.

Other foods in a well-balanced diet (dark green vegetables, some nuts, breads, and cereals) supply an average of 100 to 200 mg of calcium daily. Some cereals, soy products, and fruit juices are fortified with up to 1000 mg of calcium.” Nuts and fish (salmon, sardines) are another good source of calcium.

Say yes to Vitamin D

Say yes to Vitamin DVitamin D supplementation can increase the absorption of calcium and may provide many positive benefits as well, but that is a topic for another day (or article). Just check with your physician before taking Vitamin D supplements if you have any endocrine issues, especially hypercalcemia or PTH (parathyroid) abnormalities. In general, however, Vitamin D supplementation is extremely safe and likely provides many benefits.

So what’s the bottom line? Avoid calcium pills, eat vegetables and dairy products, and stay in good aerobic shape (very important, another article). Also, restrict alcohol, don’t even think about smoking, avoid 2nd and 3rd hand smoke, lift weights, and do weight-bearing exercise, preferably at an aerobic level.

 These are my thoughts and are not meant to represent standard of care or policy of The Villages Health.

Last updated: 06.06.2018
Coach Image

Written byDr. John Hocutt

John E. Hocutt, Jr., MD practices family and sports medicine at The Villages Health Colony Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, completed his residency at the Medical Center of Delaware, and is certified by the American Board of Family Practice. After more than three decades of practicing medicine, Dr. Hocutt firmly believes that it’s a team sport. “The patient should be an active participant in his or her care. Clear communication and respect are also critical for excellent patient care.” He is a published author, national speaker, dedicated volunteer, and winner of many industry honors, from a “Patient’s Choice” doctor to a “Top Doc” in sports medicine. And how does Dr. Hocutt enjoy his free time? Golf, softball, water skiing, cycling and swimming – you guessed it – sports!

Coach Image

Written by Dr. John Hocutt

John E. Hocutt, Jr., MD practices family and sports medicine at The Villages Health Colony Care Center in The Villages®, Florida. He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, completed his residency at the Medical Center of Delaware, and is certified by the American Board of Family Practice. After more than three decades of practicing medicine, Dr. Hocutt firmly believes that it’s a team sport. “The patient should be an active participant in his or her care. Clear communication and respect are also critical for excellent patient care.” He is a published author, national speaker, dedicated volunteer, and winner of many industry honors, from a “Patient’s Choice” doctor to a “Top Doc” in sports medicine. And how does Dr. Hocutt enjoy his free time? Golf, softball, water skiing, cycling and swimming – you guessed it – sports!

The Villages, The Villages Health, America’s Healthiest Hometown, and their associated logos are trademarks of Holding Company of The Villages, Inc., and are used with permission.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.

Get 4 free 8-minute workouts

We monitor comments. See guidelines

Comments