The Calcium story – Calcium supplements, cows milk, and more

Posted on Posted in Diet, Food, Health, Research, Supplements

Update 23/1/18:

It was suggested that the information contained in the video is out of date because it was published in March 2013.  So I went digging to what the latest that Harvard research currently recommends and found the following:

Published: July, 2015

Here was the conclusion:

“What’s the bottom line?

One thing the studies have taught us is that both calcium and vitamin D are essential in building bone. The question is how much of each. Dr. Willett recommends going lower on calcium and higher on vitamin D than the guidelines suggest—500 to 700 mg a day of calcium and 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D. At that rate, you can probably get all or most of your calcium from food, especially if you have a serving or two of dairy products daily. If you can’t tolerate dairy, you should still be able to get 300 mg a day in your diet and can take a low-dose calcium supplement to make up the rest. By keeping your supplement consumption to 500 mg or less a day, you should avoid the possible risk of heart disease and kidney stones suggested by the studies.

Although vitamin D is added to milk and some other foods, you’ll probably need a supplement to be sure you’re getting enough. A capsule containing 800 to 1,000 IU should do the trick”


So it appears the latest recommendation is 500-700mg of calcium a day AND 800-1000 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D which help in the absorption of Calcium.


Here is another article from Harvard, published Sep 2015:

How well does calcium intake really protect your bones?

Final conclusion:

“What to do?

“The takeaway is that you shouldn’t be taking calcium with the idea that it will prevent bone fractures,” Dr. Slovik says. But he notes that adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is still essential for healthy bone. A deficiency of either can increase the risk of diseases like osteomalacia and rickets.

It’s impossible to determine how much calcium each of us, individually, needs. Try to get as much calcium as you can from food. If your doctor advises you to get 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium a day, you can safely add a daily calcium supplement of 500 or 600 mg without increasing your risk of heart attack or kidney stones. And don’t forget vitamin D. No one is challenging the recommendation for vitamin D — 600 to 800 IU a day from either food or supplements.


So in this post it is “whatever your doctor says” (1000mg to 1200mg) where you can take a 500-600mg calcium supplement because you’ll get about 300mg (taken from a previous post) in your diet IF you are having the diet they think you are having, which a lot of people may not be having.  In that case, you’ll be deficient.


And the final post I found did not have a published date, but the latest study referenced was in 2014, so could be the oldest article out of the 3:

Calcium: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?


“The Bottom Line: Recommendations for Calcium Intake and Bone Health

Adequate, lifelong dietary calcium intake is necessary to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D and performing regular, weight-bearing exercise are also important to build maximum bone density and strength. After age 30, these factors help slow bone loss, although they cannot completely prevent bone loss due to aging.

Milk and dairy products are a convenient source of calcium for many people. They are also a good source of protein and are fortified with vitamins D and A. At this time, however, the optimal intake of calcium is not clear, nor is the optimal source or sources of calcium. As noted earlier, the National Academy of Sciences currently recommends that people ages 19 to 50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, and that those age 50 or over get 1,200 milligrams per day. Reaching 1,200 milligrams per day would usually require drinking two to three glasses of milk per day—or taking calcium supplements—over and above an overall healthy diet.

However, these recommendations are based on very short-term studies, and are likely to be higher than what people really need. Currently, there’s no good evidence that consuming more than one serving of milk per day in addition to a reasonable diet (which typically provides about 300 milligrams of calcium per day from nondairy sources) will reduce fracture risk. Because of unresolved concerns about the risk of ovarian and prostate cancer, it may be prudent to avoid higher intakes of dairy products.

At moderate levels, though, consumption of calcium and dairy products has benefits beyond bone health, including possibly lowering the risk of high blood pressure and colon cancer. (20–25) While the blood pressure benefits appear fairly small, the protection against colon cancer seems somewhat larger, and most of the latter benefit comes from having just one or maybe two glasses of milk per day in addition to what we get from other foods in our diet. Getting more than this doesn’t seem to lower risk further.

For individuals who are unable to digest—or who dislike—dairy products and for those who simply prefer not to consume large amounts of such foods, other options are available. Calcium can also be found in dark green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and collard greens, as well as in dried beans and legumes.

Calcium is also found in spinach and chard, but these vegetables contain oxalic acid, which combines with the calcium to form calcium oxalate, a chemical salt that makes the calcium less available to the body. A variety of calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice and soy milk, are now on the market.

Calcium can also be ingested as a supplement, and if you do go the supplement route, it’s best to choose one that includes some vitamin D. Research suggests that calcium-only supplements do not protect against fractures, and may in fact increase risk of fractures. (4) There’s also some emerging evidence that taking calcium-only supplements may possibly increase the risk of heart attacks—another reason to avoid calcium-only supplements. (26) Men may want to avoid calcium supplements because of questions about possible risks of prostate cancer; if men do take a calcium supplement, limiting supplement intake to 500 milligrams of calcium per day seems prudent.

Antacids contain calcium, but do not contain vitamin D. So if you choose antacids as a calcium source, you may want to consider taking a separate vitamin D supplement. Discuss your options with a health care provider. (Read more about vitamin D and health.)

Here is a list of foods that are good sources of calcium.”


So in this article, it is 1000mg to 1200mg of Calcium, depending on age.



So time wise it has gone from the 1000mg to 1200mg of calcium a day in 2015 to 500 to 700mg of calcium a day to the updated article updated in 2017 but originally published in 2015.

In any case, Vitamin D is very important to help the body absorb the Calcium, and chances are people are deficient in that area.  That recommendation went from 600-800IU (2015) to 800-1000IU (2017).

So if you have 300mg of Calcium from your diet, you still need another 200mg (minimum) to 400mg per day to meet the 500-700mg recommendation, so you would need to have a Calcium supplement. However, you then need to make sure the supplement comes with, or you are taking separately, enough Vitamin D so you are actually absorbing the Calcium.

And to try and work out how much calcium you are getting from your diet, here is a table from one of the above articles:

25 sources of dietary calcium


Serving size

Estimated calcium in milligrams

(NOTE: 1 oz  = 28.3 grams)

Collard greens, frozen

8 oz


Broccoli rabe

8 oz


Kale, frozen

8 oz


Soy Beans, green, boiled

8 oz


Bok Choy, cooked, boiled

8 oz


Figs, dried

2 figs


Broccoli, fresh, cooked

8 oz



1 whole



Serving size

Estimated calcium

Sardines, canned with bones

3 oz


Salmon, canned with bones

3 oz


Shrimp, canned

3 oz



Serving size

Estimated calcium

Ricotta, part-skim

4 oz


Yogurt, plain, low-fat

6 oz


Milk, skim, low-fat, whole

8 oz


Yogurt with fruit, low-fat

6 oz


Mozzarella, part-skim

1 oz



1 oz


Greek yogurt

6 oz


American cheese

1 oz


Feta cheese

4 oz


Cottage cheese

4 oz


Fortified food

Serving Size

Estimated calcium

Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified

8 oz


Tofu, prepared with calcium

4 oz


Orange juice fortified with calcium

4 oz


Cereal, fortified

8 oz


Source: International Osteoporosis Foundation


Original post 22/1/18:

This video is again, another very interesting video which provides a lot of scientic trials/studies and evidence showing the relationship and effects of Calcium, Calcium supplements, and cows milk/dairy products.

It also, at one point, refers back to “The China Study” which I listened to a while ago, which basically says avoid animal protein, one source in which it is most prolifically taken is from the form of cows milk.

It also goes into Calcium supplementation, and the use of it, and where the original recommendation came from (1200mg/day).

And the piece of evidence which I always like to see is “real world population diet and numbers”.

It be seen that the countries which have a higher intake of calcium have a greater chance of Hip fractures, while the countries with low calcium intake have a lower chance.

And the deaths from Osteoporosis is very high in countries which take a lot of calcium and dairy. While countries like Japan with 400-500mg of calcium per day is very low.

There are also references to Harvard studies and recommendations.

So what is the final summary?

It is in the slide below.

So basically, the 1200mg recommendation a day is excessive, and if you try and meet it through supplementation, your body can’t process it more than than a certain amount during a period of time. The excess calcium is disposed of in a damaging way that increases your risk to all sorts of negative health effects.  Avoid cows milk and dairy products because of the animal protein in it and their links to certain cancers.

Dietary calcium (calcium from your diet) is the best way to get them, and if you think about it, it is probably because it comes in small doses through a spread out period of the day.

Mineral bone density increases with physical activity, not increased calcium consumption.

Again, a disclaimer, I’m not a medical professional, however, the data and evidence is all in the video, and at the end of the day it is up to you what you do with the information provided.


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