Calcium is an important nutrient for all people, especially as we age. But Americans continue to struggle to get enough calcium, even with the help of dietary supplements. Researchers examined data of close to 9,500 individuals (aged 19 and up) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that for all age groups, even those taking calcium supplements, total calcium intake was insufficient, putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis later in life.
Overall, the amount of calcium obtained from diet decreased with age (more so for men than women). Interestingly, the study also noted that half the individuals surveyed were already taking a calcium supplement; the older they were, the more likely it was they were taking a supplement. Use of calcium supplements certainly seemed to help people get more calcium as a whole, but still not enough to meet the recommended levels across the generations.
In late 2010, the Institute of Medicine released the new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for calcium and the recommendations are as below:
- 19 to 50 years old: = 1,000 mg/day
- 51 to 70 year old males: = 1,000 mg/day
- 51 to 70 year old females: = 1,000 mg/day
- 70 years old and above = 1,200 mg/day
It is always best to get the nutrients you need from foods first because they are usually better absorbed. Here are some examples of foods rich in calcium that you can include in your diet:
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
- Oranges (especially calcium-fortified orange juice)
- Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach)
- Beans and peas (tofu, peanuts, peas, black beans)
- Fish (salmon, sardines)
However, based on these recent study findings, it may not be a bad idea to take a calcium supplement in addition to eating a diet high in calcium, especially as we age, to reduce risk of osteoporosis. Always consult your doctor or registered dietitian first before you start taking any dietary supplements.