How much calcium you need depends on your age and gender. Men have it easy. According to the National Academy of Sciences, males ages 19 through 50 need 1,000 mg per day. After 51, needs rise to 1,200 mg per day. For women, itâ€™s trickier. Prevention is everything. Although both sexes require adequate calcium during adolescence to preserve bone mass and prevent fractures later, by the time women are perimenopausal and early postmenopausal, calcium has minimal effect on bone mass and bone loss. As women age into their late 60â€™s, 70â€™s and beyond is when calcium again, is oh so important as that is the time of increased risks for fracture and increased bone loss.
The National Institutes of Health has one of the most well-accepted guidelines for womenâ€™s calcium intake:
Most people need to supplement to get enough calcium because we have reduced our dairy intake. Estimating dietary sources of calcium is an important first step, before deciding how much to augment in a pill. Not counting dairy or calcium-fortified foods, you get about 250 mg of calcium per day from our grains, seeds and vegetables. If you drink milk, calcium-fortified soy milk or OJ, you rack up an additional 300 mg per 1 cup serving. Thatâ€™s 250 mg + 300 mg = 550 mg per day. Letâ€™s say youâ€™re 51, postmenopausal and not using estrogen. Youâ€™ll need an additional 950 mg to reach the goal of 1,500 mg per day. More is not better. Taking too much may not be good for your heart or other soft tissue and may inhibit mineral absorption.
But bone is not nourished by calcium alone. Vitamin D, is probably even more important than calcium. Other nutrients that can affect bone health include magnesium, manganese, boron, zinc, folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin K. These different nutrients are important in one or more of the following: bone density, bone architecture and/or bone strength.