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 Dietary Supplements: Meeting Optimal Calcium Requirements 
Connie Weaver M. PhD ©
Adequate dietary intake of calcium is important to bone health and has been associated with reduced risk of colon cancer and hypertension in some individuals. Unfortunately, calcium intake by many Americans, especially females, is less than the Recommended Dietary Allowance and the amounts recommended by the NIH Consensus panel on optimal calcium intake (Table 1).¹

Osteoporosis is a major health problem affecting more than 25 million people in the United States. Prevention of osteoporosis is the most cost-effective means for managing this disease. Optimizing peak bone mass during bone growth and consolidation and reducing the subsequent rate of bone loss are two strategies for keeping bone mass above the threshold for fracture. Adequate dietary calcium is a requisite to maximizing development of peak bone mass within an individual's genetic potential and to reducing bone resorption later in life. Approximately 90 percent of the total body bone mass in females is achieved by age 16.9, 95 percent by age 19.8, and 99 percent by age 26.2.²

Dairy products provide the most absorbable calcium of the food groups. Aside from calcium, dairy products provide many other nutrients important for bone health. For those individuals who cannot meet their dietary requirements for calcium from foods naturally containing this nutrient, it is important to consider which nutrients in addition to calcium may be beneficial in supplements. For example, vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and magnesium improves bone quality.

TABLE 1: Optical Calcium Requirements¹

Group   Optimal Daily Intake (in mg of calcium)

Birth-6 months   400
6 months-1 year   600
1-5 years   800
6-10 years   800-1,200
Adolescents/Young Adults
11-24 years   1,200-1,500
25-65 years   1,000
Over 65 years   1,500
25-50 years   1,000
Over 50 years (post menopausal)   1,000
On estrogens   1,500
Not on estrogens   1,500
Over 65 years   1,500
Pregnant and nursing   1,200-1,500
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