Supplements

The deal with calcium supplements: Do I really need to take it?

Aug. 8, 2013 at 5:22 PM ET

benefits of calcium
Anthony-Masterson/botanica/getty images /
calcium supplements

Pros

  • It has consistently been shown to help prevent osteoporosis in both women and men.  
  • Research shows overwhelmingly positive benefit for improving premenstrual symptoms—irritability, water retention, food cravings and cramps.
  • Its has a high safety rating and rarely causes side effects.

Cons:  

  • More studies still need to be done to see if calcium is what prevents fractures.  
  • Side effects, while rare, can include: constipation, bloating and kidney stones.  
  • The less expensive version, calcium carbonate, must be taken with meals, but calcium citrate (more expensive) doesn’t need to be.
  • The best source of calcium is always whole food. If you do decide to take it: You want to aim for 1200 mg of calcium each day through a combination of supplements and food. For the greatest benefits you may want to add 800 IU of Vitamin D3 per day (to aid in calcium absorption) plus 400 mg of Magnesium per day (to counter calcium’s tendency to cause constipation).

The bottom line:

Calcium is safe and effective for treating premenstrual syndrome and for the prevention of osteoporosis or fractures.

This supplement was reviewed and evaluated by the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Prescriptive Wellness Committee. Learn more about the committee and read other supplement reviews.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.


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