How Long Do I Need Calcium?

  • Author:
    Betty Kovacs Harbolic, MS, RD

    Betty is a Registered Dietitian who earned her B.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Marymount College of Fordham University and her M.S. degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She is the Co-Director and Director of nutrition for the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Ask the experts

Is it true that women stop absorbing calcium after 25? Is it better to take calcium supplements or simply eat foods that contain calcium?

Doctor's response

Instead of saying that women stop absorbing calcium after 25, it would be better to say that women need calcium for different reasons after their 20s. The minute that some people hear that we stop absorbing something they think that means that it's no longer needed. It's imperative that everyone understand that we need calcium throughout our lifespan, but for different reasons.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body with 99% of it found in our bones and teeth. Most of our bone is built from infancy through our adolescent years. Depending on our genes, there can be small increases in bone mass between 20 and 30 years of age, as well. Bone loss begins in mid-adulthood and increases considerably at menopause for women. Even when we stop building bone, we need calcium for other functions and to replace what is being lost each day. For this reason, there are daily Recommended Adequate Intakes set for calcium:

  • 0 to 6 months - 210 mg
  • 7 to 12 months - 270 mg
  • 1 to 3 years - 500 mg
  • 4 to 8 years - 800 mg
  • 9 to 13 years - 1300 mg
  • 14 to 18 years - 1300 mg
  • 19 to 50 years - 1000 mg
  • 51+ years - 1200 mg

The best way to meet your calcium requirements is through your diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid recommends that individuals 2 years and older eat two to three servings of dairy products per day. One serving is equal to:

  • 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) of milk
  • 8 oz. of yogurt
  • 1.5 oz. of natural cheese (such as cheddar)
  • 2 oz. of processed cheese (such as American)

There is also an abundance of calcium-fortified foods (fruit juices, cereal, and tofu) that will help you reach your calcium goals. If you are not able to meet your calcium requirements through food, taking a supplement would be necessary to reach your daily requirements. You can go to https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=78967 for guidelines on selecting a supplement. It's never too late to do something good for your body, so bone up on reaching your calcium goals.

Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine

REFERENCE:

"Regulation of calcium and phosphate balance"
UpToDate.com


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Reviewed on 7/14/2017

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