Large Study Finds U.S. Recommendations for Calcium May Be Too High


Calcium SymbolAlisa Fleming ~ According to a new study, consuming the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium won't lower the chance of breaking a bone later in life for women.

Researchers in Sweden found that taking 750 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day is linked with the lowest risk of fracture and osteoporosis for Swedish women who are in their 50s, but taking higher amounts of calcium than this made no difference in their fracture risk as they aged.

Europe was already in the ballpark, with the United Kingdom recommending 700mg of calcium per day for women over 50 and Scandinavia recommending 800mg. However, the U.S. RDA, as established by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, for women over 50 is a whopping 1200mg per day, far more than necessary, according to the study.

And while some may wish to “err on the side of caution” and intake excess calcium regardless, researchers have found that overconsumption of calcium may be detrimental. In fact, Eva Warensjo, a researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, reported in the British Medical Journal that excessive calcium may actually cause, rather than prevent fractures. Researchers speculate that excessive amounts of calcium may actually shut down some of the bone construction in the skeleton.

As for a minimum goal, the researchers found that consuming less than 700mg per day of calcium for this demographic does correlate with an increase in fracture risk and osteoporosis. Based on this, Eva and her team recommended that women over the age of 50 aim for 700 to 800mg per day of calcium through foods, and if necessary, supplements.

These results may prompt U.S. health officials to revisit their dietary guidelines soon. According to Dr. Julie Switzer, a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons' Women's Health Issues Advisory Board, "This may be opening the door to modifying our recommendations for calcium intake."

This study specifically addressed the highest risk group, women over the age of 50, but U.S. calcium recommendations for children and younger adults are also significantly higher than most European recommended daily intakes for these age groups, so we may see a reassessment in the near future.

The study was published May 24, 2011 in the British Medical Journal.

For more information on non-dairy sources of calcium, see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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