Are you taking too much calcium?

Bone health in women has raised a lot of concern and generated many recommendations. Current guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women ages 65 and older be screened routinely for osteoporosis. To reduce bone loss and decrease risk of fractures, calcium and vitamin D recommends have been outlined as well; premenopausal women should consume at least 1,000 mg per day and postmenopausal women should consume 1,2000 mg per day (total diet and supplement). But are women taking too much calcium?

A new study recently published in the journal of The North American Menopause Society has shown that usual supplements may cause blood levels too high for some women. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial examined 163 caucasian women ages 57 to 90, who initially had vitamin D levels too low. Participants took calcium citrate tablets at a variety of doses, to meet their recommended intake of 1,200 mg per day.

About 9% of the participants ended up with hypercalcemia, or too high of calcium in the blood, and 31% of the participants developed hypercalciuria, or too high of calcium levels in their urine. None of the participants took excess doses of supplements, and every participant was inspected to rule out hyperparathyroidism (body increases calcium-regulating hormone).

Excess levels of calcium in the blood and urine can lead to kidney stones and symptoms such as depression, nausea, fatigue, and irregular heartbeats. Thankfully, the investigators of this study found that women who developed excess levels tended to have higher 24-hour urine calcium levels when starting the study. Women with a 24-hour urine calcium level above 132 mg had a risk of developing excess urine calcium 15 times higher than those with lower levels.

To prevent excess levels of calcium, keep track of the foods you eat and ask a physician to incorporate your diet prior to taking a hefty calcium supplement. Furthermore, watch for the side effects that occur when there is too much calcium in the body. To learn more about the negative side effects of excess calcium and other ways to augment bone health during menopause, visit Northwestern’s menopause website here.

Source: John Christopher Gallagher, Lynette M. Smith, Vinod Yalamanchili. Incidence of hypercalciuria and hypercalcemia during vitamin D and calcium supplementation in older women. Menopause, 2014; 1 DOI:10.1097/GME.0000000000000270