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Would getting too much calcium be a bad thing for your body?

Asked by: Bryan Blackshear
School: West Middle School, Binghamton School District
Grade:
Teacher: Jo Ann Summerlee

Answer from Jessica Surdey

Instructor, Health and Wellness Studies, Binghamton University

Research area: Stress
Family: Husband Ryan
Interests/Hobbies: Exercise and home renovation  

Bryan, this is a complex question. The simple answer is that most likely you can’t get too much calcium if you are eating it from natural sources. The problem is that most Americans do not get enough calcium and that has many negative side effects.

Let’s take a look at what calcium does for your body in order to understand this. Calcium is needed to help the body maintain strong bones. It is also vital for communication between the brain and body parts as well as muscle movement. Calcium also aids in several other functions of the body; including the movement of blood vessels, hormones and enzymes.

Some of the best sources of calcium include dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Also, green vegetables like kale and broccoli have high amounts of calcium. Fortified cereals and canned fish with bones like sardines are also good sources.

Over time, not having enough calcium can lead to weak bones which ultimately results in osteoporosis and injury, like breaks and fractures. Certain groups in the population are more at risk for not getting enough calcium like adolescent girls, postmenopausal women, vegans, and people who are lactose intolerant. Additionally, age affects the rate at which calcium is absorbed; it decreases overtime so people over the age of seventy need more calcium. Lastly, vitamin D affects the rate at which calcium is absorbed; vitamin D is found in foods and from sunlight. In our area of the country many people have low levels of vitamin D, especially in the winter which makes us more at risk for not getting enough calcium.

If calcium is over-consumed naturally from your food the most common side effect is constipation. If too much calcium is taken in from supplements, mainly calcium bicarbonate, which is found in most supplements and is highly absorbable, the body will absorb more than it needs. Recent research has indicated that calcium supplements can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, kidney stones, and overtime calcium buildup in organs, which could eventually lead to organ failure. The negative side effects happen when it is from an unnatural source rather than eating too much in your food.

Last Updated: 9/18/13