Calcium tablets can be dangerous

A woman with capsules in her hand. Calcium tablets should not be taken carelessly or without consulting your doctor.

Calcium tablets should not be taken carelessly or without consulting your doctor. (Source: diego_cervo/getty-images-bilder)

Calcium tablets in high doses can have serious health consequences. Because they promote the formation of kidney stones and hardening of the arteries.

Calcium plays an important role in building bones. However, calcium supplements are unlikely to be useful for people who do not have a significantly increased risk of bone fractures and who consume sufficient quantities of the mineral through their diet. Studies prove this. The situation is different for people who suffer from osteoporosis (bone loss). But here too, strict rules apply when it comes to dosage.

Cover your calcium needs better through your diet

Because many osteoporosis patients take multiple supplements, accidental overdose is possible. However, there are no harmful upper limits for calcium-rich foods. That’s why the mineral should normally be taken preferably through your diet, says private lecturer Dr. med. Stephan Scharla, spokesman for the Bone and Mineral Metabolism Section of the German Society for Endocrinology. V. (DGE). There is no harmful upper limit for calcium-rich foods.

How much calcium per day should there be?

Basically: “Healthy people with a varied and balanced diet that also contains dairy products do not need any medicinal calcium supplements,” says Scharla. “An exception are those who (cannot) consume little or no dairy products and patients with so-called malabsorption – for example after gastric bypass surgery for obesity. They have a high risk of a nutritional calcium deficiency,” said the expertAccording to experts, a calcium intake of 1,000 mg per day is optimal. Up to 500 mg/day of this can be taken safely via calcium supplements. “The most effective way is to take it with meals,” advises Scharla. However, higher doses of 1,000 to 1,500 mg can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, among other things. This applies equally to over-the-counter preparations and medicines, since the ingredients are basically the same..

Milk, vegetables and mineral water

Even if osteoporosis is present, calcium intake should preferably come from diet, emphasizes the endocrinologist. The body excretes excess bone mineral. “Dairy products are a good source of calcium, as are green vegetables such as broccoli or kale , and mineral waters high in calcium.” People with lactose intolerance or an aversion to dairy products could therefore switch to other sources of calcium. There are now many lactose-free milk products in the grocery store.

Studies show that the bioavailability of calcium from mineral water is similar to that of milk. If mineral water contains at least 150 mg of calcium per liter, it may be labeled as containing calcium. This is stated on the bottle label.

These foods are calcium robbers

Calcium absorption is affected by sausage products with a high phosphate content, coffee and black tea (when consumed in large quantities), alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, processed cheese and foods with a high content of oxalic acid such as spinach, rhubarb and asparagus.

Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption

In order to be able to absorb calcium from the intestines and incorporate it into the bones, the body also needs vitamin D. In winter, it is advisable to take a vitamin D supplement of 1,000 IU daily because of the lower amount of UV light. This not only improves calcium absorption but also strengthens the immune system. However, Scharla warns against excessively high individual doses of vitamin D: “They are harmful – it is better to have a continuously low intake.”It should be noted that patients taking osteoporosis medications, such as intravenous bisphosphonates, teriparatide or romosozumab, may have an increased need for calcium. Here, doctors recommend additional medicinal calcium intake, says Scharla.

Prevent osteoporosis through a healthy lifestyle

“However, calcium alone is not enough to prevent or even treat osteoporosis,” says Professor Stephan Petersenn from the Endoc practice for endocrinology and andrology in Hamburg .”This always includes regular physical activity with muscle training, a daily walk in the fresh air to get vitamin D, avoiding being underweight, preventing falls and quitting smoking.” In addition, there are highly effective medications with few side effects that the doctor can prescribe as part of osteoporosis therapy.


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