How Much Calcium Do Adults Need in Their Diets?

Maintaining an adequate daily intake of calcium and vitamin D is extremely important for keeping bones healthy and strong. Vitamin D is relevant because it influences the amount of calcium the body absorbs. However, consuming too calcium poses some serious health risks. For adults, the key is to keep the amount of calcium intake in the proper balance.

Recommended Daily Amount of Calcium

In the United States, the recommended amount of calcium for adult women is 1,000 mg per day up until age 50. After that, the amount goes up to 1,200 mg each day. The standard for men is also 1,000 mg each day. Men can wait until age 71 to boost their daily intake to 1,200 mg. This standard is not universally accepted. For example, the recommended daily amount of calcium in the United Kingdom is 700 mg. In addition, recent research suggests that adding more calcium does not decrease the risk of bone fractures. Some experts say that as little as 500 mg per day is sufficient.

Dietary Sources of Calcium

For most adults, diet can furnish enough calcium. Dairy products like cheese, low fat milk and yogurt products are the best source. Dark green vegetables and fish such as salmon also provide calcium, as do soy products and fruit juice. Individuals with medical conditions like lactose intolerance may require a daily supplement of 500 mg.

Benefits of Calcium

In addition to maintaining bone density and health, calcium is needed for the proper functioning of organs and muscles. The brain and nerves also need some calcium. There is limited evidence that calcium may aid in lowering the risk of diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.

Health Risks of Excessive Calcium Consumption

Health care professionals say that the level of calcium in the blood should not exceed 100 mg per milliliter. High levels of calcium create health risks, some of which are serious and even life threatening. Abdominal and muscle pain are two potential problems. Excessive calcium can also lead to kidney stones and emotional disorders. The most important problems are increased risks of strokes and heart attacks.


There is no question that adequate intake of calcium each day is vital to good health. However, the health risks of consuming too much calcium are well established. In view of these risks, moderation is important. Most people can get enough calcium from their diets, so taking supplements is appropriate only when there is a specific reason for doing so.