Ask the Nurse

I recently read that women over 40 should stop taking calcium supplements. Is that true?

A recent review of research on calcium supplements did raise some concern for women who routinely take them to prevent bone loss. Researchers found that in people older than 40, the supplements appear to slightly increase the risk of heart attack while providing very limited benefit to bone health. The media has sensationalized this news, causing many women to misunderstand the research.

In Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health, we advise women to get 1000 to 1500 milligrams of calcium a day.The best way to obtain calcium is from food sources like dairy products and leafy green vegetables. But if it’s difficult for you to get this much calcium from foods, you may need a supplement to get enough of this important dietary supplement. If you rely on calcium supplements, it is better to consume them in divided doses throughout the day, for example one 500mg dose at breakfast and another 500mg at dinner.

In its food guidance system, MyPyramid, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that persons aged 9 and older eat 3 cups (1 cup equals 8 oz.) from the milk group per day. A quick measure is 8 oz. of milk (any kind) equals approximately 285 mg to 300mg of calcium, 8 oz. of yogurt contains about 245 mg. to 384 mg, and 1 cup of Chinese raw cabbage has about 74 mg. of calcium.

Groups at risk for inadequate intake of dietary calcium include:

  • Postmenopausal women
  • Women who are not having periods and female athletes
  • Individuals with lactose intolerance
  • Vegetarians

All My Best,
Speaking of Women's Health Nurse

July 4, 2011 at 6:32pm