High Amounts of Calcium Don't Lower Bone Fracture Risk

Consuming more than the recommended daily amount of calcium won't lower the chance of breaking a bone later in life, according to a new study.

Researchers found that taking 750 milligrams of calcium a day their daily recommended amount is linked with the lowest risk of fracture and osteoporosis for Swedish women in their 50s.

But taking higher amounts of calcium than is recommended made no difference in their fracture risk as they aged, according to the study.

Health experts have long known that calcium is important for preventing osteoporosis and broken bones, but the amount of calcium needed to do so differs from country to country as well as from age to age. In the United Kingdom, for example, the recommended daily amount of calcium for a woman in her 50s is 700 milligrams a day, whereas in Scandinavia, it is 800 milligrams a day. In the United States, the recommended daily amount is 1,200 milligrams per day.

Other countries have their own governmental groups that accrue data for their respective populations to give the best calcium recommendations to fit their diets, said Dr. Sanford Baim, an associate professor of medicine at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, who was not involved with the study.

"Some populations have higher intakes of calcium-rich food, so why take supplements when diet is sufficient?" Baim told MyHealthNewsDaily. "Also, we should be aware of the total intake of calcium that is inclusive of calcium-rich foods.

The study was published online today (May 24) in the British Medical Journal.

Looking at the data

Swedish researchers analyzed the health information of 61,433 women who were born between 1914 and 1948 who participated in the Swedish Mammography Study, who were followed for 19 years.

Of those women, 24 percent of them had a first bone fracture during the 19-year period, and 6 percent had a hip fracture. Twenty percent of the women developed osteoporosis, according to the study.

The women also filled out a questionnaire over the study period so that researchers could know their dietary habits. They found that women had the lowest fracture risk when they consumed 750 milligrams a day of calcium, but that fracture risk didn't decrease if they consumed more than that.

However, consuming less than 700 milligrams a day of calcium is associated with fracture risk and osteoporosis, researchers said.

Calcium recommendations in the U.S.

Most Americans and Canadians get enough calcium and vitamin D , according to a 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine.

All humans require a specific amount of calcium and vitamin D , which helps the body to absorb calcium, Baim said. The amount of calcium needed for each person depends on a number of factors and stages of life.

For example, the human skeleton grows during childhood and adolescence, so larger intakes of calcium are needed to accrue bone, he said. For children ages 4 to 8, 800 milligrams of calcium are recommended, while for children ages 9 to 18, 1,300 milligrams of calcium are recommended per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In young adulthood, the skeleton is not growing as much, so just enough calcium is needed to balance out what is lost from the body naturally through sweat, urine and feces. During this time (between ages 19 and 50), 1,000 milligrams of calcium is recommended per day, according to the CDC.

But later adulthood and old age is when increased bone loss occurs, he said. That is why 1,200 milligrams of calcium is recommended for people ages 51 and older, the CDC said.

"There must be a proper balance of calcium incorporation into our skeleton at all stages of life or we may develop rickets (lack of mineral in childhood), never attain our genetic peak bone mass as an adult and have a negative balance in later adulthood with insufficient intake leading to osteomalacia (lack of mineral in adulthood) and fracture," Baim said.

But like with all things, there is such thing as too much calcium: Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones, he said.

Pass it on: A Swedish study showed that consuming more than 750 milligrams of calcium a day doesn't lower fracture risk later in life for older women. But in the U.S., the recommended daily calcium intake is still 1,200 milligrams per day for women 51 and older.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Amanda Chan on Twitter @AmandaLChan.

Amanda Chan
Amanda Chan was a staff writer for Live Science Health. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.