Are Calcium Supplements Safe?

Q. Are calcium supplements safe to take?

A. The short answer is probably yes.

Women, in particular, are taking calcium supplements to strengthen their bones. But it’s not clear if calcium supplements can prevent fractures. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that postmenopausal women avoid taking less than 1,000mg per day to prevent fractures. They also state that not enough information is available about the risks and benefits associated with higher doses.

What are the risks? What are the risks? This conclusion was supported by a report that was prepared for the Preventive Services Task Force. However, it noted that the risk vanished when calcium was taken with no vitamin D.

Studies have looked into other potential safety concerns including increased death, cancer, heart disease, and stroke risk. The National Cancer Institute and the Women’s Health Initiative both found that calcium supplements did not increase the chance of premature death. These and other studies found no increased risk for breast cancer, colorectal carcinoma, colonic polyps, or cancer in general.

Calcium supplements do not appear to increase the risk of heart attack. The Women’s Health Initiative study, which examined calcium intake and vitamin D, provides the best evidence.

Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for calcium supplements do not recommend them. Therefore, your individual health concerns should be considered when deciding whether to take them. For example, someone with a history or osteoporosis might recommend calcium supplements. However, someone who has had kidney stones may want to avoid them. Calcium can also interact well with some medications like the thyroid medicine Levothyroxine, or the popular antisteoporosis drug Fosamax.

Other than these concerns, ample evidence suggests that calcium supplements can be safe.

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