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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is 3000mg Calcium supplement daily too much?

    Related Topic
    My GP prescribed daily supplements of calcium 3000mg and vitamin D 2400IU to treat osteopenia, most likely brought on by rheumatoid arthritis. After reading some things online about calcium supplement limits I am mildly alarmed that this is too much calcium. Is 3000mg a day too much for a 32 y/o female to be taking?
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  • 2

    Thanks

    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    The upper level of intake for calcium set by the National Health and Research Council (NHMRC) is 2500mg and for vitamin D 80 micrograms (2400IU = approx. 60 micrograms). Vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium from the small intestine which is why it is often taken in conjunction with calcium supplements.

    The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of calcium per day for a woman your age is 1000mg. You can achieve this by consuming 2-3 serves of low fat dairy foods each day. One serve equals 250mL of milk, 200g tub of yoghurt or 40g (2 slices) of cheese. You can also find calcium in non-dairy foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, almonds, and chia seeds, however, you would need to consume large amounts (often quite difficult) of these foods to reach your recommended intake. Soy milk is another alternative to milk which can provide adequate calcium. Be sure to look for “calcium fortified” soy milks.

    For more expert advice, I would suggest you consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who can help you with dietary treatment of both osteopenia and rheumatoid arthritis. To find an APD near you head to www.daa.asn.au and click on the “find an Accredited Practising Dietitian” tab

  • 1

    Thanks

    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    Be careful where you get your information from as many websites are not credible sources

    Before getting into too much depth and confusing on this topic, I would suggest you see an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) who can perform a full dietary and lifestyle analysis to figure out what nutrients you may be missing out on. It may be simply that you are not getting enough calcium from foods, or enough sunlight to synthesis vitamin D.  


  • Anonymous

    Thanks everyone, although I was not asking for a solution to my health problems but trying to ascertain whether I have been taking a dangerous amount of supplement.
    I have been taking 3000mg of calcium supplement a day as recommended by my GP who told me I needed 3x the dose of a normal person because of my osteopenia. I get a lot of calcium in my diet but my GP told me dietary calcium wasn't as effective as supplements. My rheumatologist didn't seem to think calcium supplements were necessary, though she did suggest I eat calcium rich foods. I can't afford to see my rheumatologist at the moment, or another specialist. All I want to know is: is 3000mg dangerous? My guess is that I should cut back, but I'm not a scientist. If it is dangerous do I need to be aware of other issues that might arise because of taking too much calcium supplement?

  • 1

    Thanks

    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    Since the upper level of intake (UL) is 2500mg of calcium, taking 3000mg may not be too detrimental to your health. Toxic effects of calcium have only been seen in those who are taking high doses of calcium supplement as carbonate as an antacid. Toxic effects include:

    • hypercalcemia with renal calcification

    Osteopenia is characterised by a low bone mineral density (compared to normal peak bone density), but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. I am not a doctor, just a nutritionist and student dietitian, but I haven't read any research anywhere that suggests a high dose of calcium as a supplement in the treatment of osteopenia.

    From what I know, making sure you are getting the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of both calcium and vitamin D (as listed in my first response) is what I would suggest. Of course there are chemicals in foods which can inhibit calcium absorption like phytates and oxalates found in spinach, rhubarb, legumes, beans, peas and wheat bran so try to avoid taking your calcium supplement with these foods to enhance the absorption of calcium. Caffeine and excess amounts of protein can also prevent calcium absorption.

    My recommendation would be to make sure you are getting enough calcium-rich foods in your diet each day (at least 2 serves of dairy products) and enough vitamin D by getting a few minutes of sun outside the peak UV period (before 10am and after 2pm) in the summer on most days of the week. I would also suggest getting in some weight training as this helps to build strong bones.

  • Joy Anderson

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Joy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has a special interest in … View Profile

    Just to add to this discussion. There have been some studies casting doubt over the wisdom of large amounts of calcium in supplement form. It has been found that taking supplements to reduce risk of bone loss does not help this condition but actually raises the risk of stroke and heart attack. So caution is advised. Calcium from foods is not a risk - this is about that from supplements. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22626900 and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523200752.htm These are just two - there are many other articles and abstracts available using a google search.

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