Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Is there Such a thing as too Much Calcium?

Calcium is arguably one of the most important minerals in the body. It is responsible for the strength of your bones, and your bones in turn are responsible for supporting and protecting your entire body, internal organs and muscles. Studies have been done that look at the consumption of calcium and what the effects of deficiency are (osteoporosis and brittle bones) but less of a spotlight is shone on situations in which people get too much calcium – whether it’s through diet or supplements.

There are various upper limits for calcium consumption depending on your age and sex, and these are listed here for your reference:

Life Stage                             Upper Limit
Birth to 6 months                                 1,000 mg
Infants 7–12 months                                           1,500 mg
Children 1–8 years                                              2,500 mg
Children 9–18 years                                            3,000 mg
Adults 19–50 years                                             2,500 mg
Adults 51 years and older                                  2,000 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens   3,000 mg
Pregnant and breastfeeding adults  2,500 mg

In order to reach these sorts of upper limits, you would need to be drinking down ten glasses of milk a day (at approximately 300 mg a glass) and so it can be pretty safe to say that most people don’t get above the upper limits through food consumption alone – the excess has to come from supplement use. Taking products like calcium supplements made from algae can be a highly effective way of topping up the gap of your calcium deficiency if you have one, and using supplements only as directed is a vital part of safe supplement taking. It’s always best to consult your healthcare provider before beginning on a course of supplements or when adding a supplement to your daily diet.

Some older women in the United States would be close to exceeding the upper limits, as supplement use is prevalent in this demographic, so let’s take a look at what the effect of ‘too much calcium’ can be on the body.

It’s widely understood that consuming too much calcium causes constipation, and having too much calcium has previously been found to possibly impact on the body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc, but this is not substantiated widely. There is some speculation as well from the science world that too much calcium from supplements only (not from food) may increase the risk of developing kidney stones, but this causality is not entirely proven either.

There are other interactions that come from taking calcium supplements, as it has been shown that calcium dietary supplements can interfere with certain medications. Depending on the medication that you take, the medications may raise or lower the levels of calcium in your body. Let’s take a look at some examples of medications that can interfere with your calcium levels or that can have their absorption affected by the presence of calcium supplements.

        Bisphosphonates, which are used to treat osteoporosis
        Levothyroxine, a product that is used to treat low thyroid activity
        Antibiotics of the fluoroquinolone and tetracycline families
        Phenytoin, a drug that works as an anticonvulsant
        Tiludronate disodium, a product used to treat Paget's disease
        Stimulant laxatives and mineral oil reduce the level of calcium absorption
        Antacids with aluminium or magnesium work to increase calcium loss through your urine

 If you are taking any of these medications, or if you are considering starting taking a calcium supplement, then it is important for your health that you get in touch with your healthcare professional for their advice and for information about potentially conflicting drug interactions. Your healthcare provider can provide you with expert advice about the interactions, benefits, risks and other related information that you need to consider when you’re thinking of adding a calcium supplement to your diet. 

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