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Calcium For Adults: Why You Need Calcium, Recommended Daily Intake And Food Sources

| Reviewed By Arya Krishnan

The food we consume are the central force that aids in the efficient and effective functioning of our body. The variety of nutrients such as the vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates help keep our body and the bodily organs healthy. Out of the variety of nutrients present in the food we consume and the supplements we buy from the stores, the mineral calcium is extremely beneficial as well as necessary for your bone health.

An ingredient in many antacids, calcium is used to control high levels of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium in the blood.

The Importance Of Calcium In Your Diet

Termed as the single most necessary mineral for your bone health, calcium plays a major role in improving your overall health as well. The mineral is critical for growing new bone and maintaining your bone strength [1] . Apart from your bone health, it is also required for the proper functioning of your heart, muscles, and nerves as well as promote proper blood clotting [2].

One of the most used minerals in your body, calcium helps strengthen your bones and teeth, contract your muscles, narrow and widen blood vessels, send and receive nerve messages, release hormones and clot blood [2] . And, almost all of your body's calcium is stored in your bones; with only 1 per cent being stored in your blood.

A proper level of calcium in your diet can help prevent osteoporosis, suggesting the importance of including calcium-rich foods into your daily diet [3] . Various studies point out that the lack of calcium in one's diet can make it impossible for an individual to grow and maintain healthy bones.

Consumption of calcium-rich foods help prevent or control high blood pressure, reduce PMS symptoms and also help limit the onset of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. Individuals who are at risk of calcium deficiency are post-menopausal women, vegans and people who are lactose-intolerant [2] . A lack of calcium can pose symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, seizures and a tingling feeling in your hands or feet [3] .

Here is a list of foods that are rich in calcium [4] .

The Link Between Vitamin D And Calcium

Similar to the mineral calcium, vitamin D also plays a major role in maintaining and improving your bone health. Apart from that, your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. The lack of enough vitamin D results in insufficient calcium absorption from the diet, leading to the body absorbing the calcium from its stores in the skeleton and thereby weakening the existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone [5] .

Vitamin D can be acquired through the skin from sunlight, from the diet, and supplements. Vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, orange juice, soy milk, cereals, liver, and fortified milk are some of the best sources of the vitamin, which in turn can help improve the absorption of calcium from the food you consume [6] .

How Much Calcium Do You Really Need?

One of the most important minerals required for the basic function and overall health of your body, the daily calcium requirement for your body depends on your age and sex. Understanding the calcium needs for different age groups requires a consideration of the variable physiologic requirements of calcium during the different stages of physical development [7] . That is, the amount of calcium that is required by an infant is not the same as that of a child of 6 years old. Also, the calcium requirements are affected by genetic variability and other dietary constituents pertaining to an individual [8] .

According to the Institute of Medicine, the correct amount of daily calcium requirement for adults are as follows [9] [10] :

  • All adults (19-50 yrs): 1,000 mg
  • Adult men (51-70 yrs): 1,000 mg
  • Adult women (51-70 yrs): 1,200 mg
  • All adults (71 and older): 1,200 mg
  • Pregnant/breastfeeding women: 1,000 mg
  • Pregnant teens: 1,300 mg

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding do not need extra calcium beyond the recommendations above. And, getting this amount of calcium from the diet, with or without supplements, maybe enough to keep your bones healthy [10] .

If you are taking calcium supplements, it is best to take them with food and for better absorption, don't take more than 500 mg at one time.

Ways To Get Enough Calcium In Your Diet

Consuming calcium-rich foods alone is not necessary for ensuring that your body gets the right amount of the mineral. Here are some ways that help make sure you get enough calcium in your diet [11] .

  • Cook foods in a small amount of water for the shortest possible time to keep more calcium in the foods you eat.
  • Sauté your foods.
  • Be careful about the other foods you eat with calcium-rich foods because, certain fibres, such as wheat bran, and foods with oxalic acid can bind with calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.
  • People on a vegan diet need to be sure to also include soy products and fortified products to get the right amount of calcium.

Apart from direct foods, you can also get calcium through supplements.


Calcium is necessary for your body. However, over-consumption of anything and everything is never good for your health [12] .

  • Overconsumption of calcium-rich foods can increase the risk of kidney stones in some people.
  • Calcium supplements can increase the risk of heart attacks.

Some of the signs of high levels of calcium in your body are as follows [13] :

  • Lack of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Always tired
  • Intense thirst
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Consequently, you can undergo a calcium blood test to understand whether you have too much or too little of this key mineral in your bloodstream [14] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Zamponi, G. W., Striessnig, J., Koschak, A., & Dolphin, A. C. (2015). The physiology, pathology, and pharmacology of voltage-gated calcium channels and their future therapeutic potential. Pharmacological reviews, 67(4), 821-870.
  2. [2] Beto, J. A. (2015). The role of calcium in human aging. Clinical nutrition research, 4(1), 1-8.
  3. [3] Mazumdar, I., Goswami, K., & Ali, M. S. (2017). Status of serum calcium, vitamin D and parathyroid hormone and hematological indices among lead exposed jewelry workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 32(1), 110-116.
  4. [4] Barnstedt, O., Owald, D., Felsenberg, J., Brain, R., Moszynski, J. P., Talbot, C. B., ... & Waddell, S. (2016). Memory-relevant mushroom body output synapses are cholinergic. Neuron, 89(6), 1237-1247.
  5. [5] Douda, D. N., Khan, M. A., Grasemann, H., & Palaniyar, N. (2015). SK3 channel and mitochondrial ROS mediate NADPH oxidase-independent NETosis induced by calcium influx. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(9), 2817-2822.
  6. [6] Booth, A. O., Huggins, C. E., Wattanapenpaiboon, N., & Nowson, C. A. (2015). Effect of increasing dietary calcium through supplements and dairy food on body weight and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition, 114(7), 1013-1025.
  7. [7] Houtkooper, L., & Farrell, V. A. (2017). Calcium supplement guidelines.
  8. [8] Lordan, R., Tsoupras, A., Mitra, B., & Zabetakis, I. (2018). Dairy fats and cardiovascular disease: do we really need to be concerned?. Foods, 7(3), 29.
  9. [9] Li, X., De Munck, J., Van Landuyt, K., Pedano, M., Chen, Z., & Van Meerbeek, B. (2017). How effectively do hydraulic calcium-silicate cements re-mineralize demineralized dentin. Dental Materials, 33(4), 434-445.
  10. [10] Carafoli, E., & Krebs, J. (2016). Why calcium? How calcium became the best communicator. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 291(40), 20849-20857.
  11. [11] Edmonds, S. W., Solimeo, S. L., Nguyen, V. T., Wright, N. C., Roblin, D. W., Saag, K. G., & Cram, P. (2017). Understanding preferences for osteoporosis information to develop an osteoporosis patient education brochure. The Permanente journal, 21.
  12. [12] Cano, A., Chedraui, P., Goulis, D. G., Lopes, P., Mishra, G., Mueck, A., ... & Tuomikoski, P. (2018). Calcium in the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis: EMAS clinical guide. Maturitas, 107, 7-12.
  13. [13] Straus, S. E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S., & Haynes, R. B. (2018). Evidence-Based Medicine E-Book: How to Practice and Teach EBM. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  14. [14] Flucher, B. E., & Tuluc, P. (2017). How and why are calcium currents curtailed in the skeletal muscle voltage‐gated calcium channels?. The Journal of physiology, 595(5), 1451-1463.
Arya KrishnanEmergency Medicine
Arya Krishnan
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