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What Happens If You Get Too Much Calcium?

By Pia Grant

Calcium is a mineral required for good health, especially bone health. Found in foods and in supplement form, calcium sources are abundant. Although the chances for acquiring excessive calcium through diet and supplements is rare, it can occur. Serious health problems can occur as a result of high calcium levels in your body.

About Calcium

Calcium is present mainly in the bones and teeth, giving them strength and density. This mineral is also present in the fluid between cells, in blood and muscles, and plays a role in muscle, blood vessel and nervous system function. Dairy foods are the most abundant source of calcium, but you can also consume calcium through vegetables and grains. Calcium supplements are also available.

Recommended Daily Levels

Calcium requirements vary with age. The National Institutes of Health recommended level for adults 19 to 50 is 1,000 mg of calcium per day. The calcium needs of men 51 and older remain 1,000 mg per day, but this increases to 1,200 mg after age 70. After age 50, women need more calcium -- about 1,200 mg per day. Calcium is particularly important from ages 9 to 18 when bones are growing, so consuming 1,300 mg per day is important. Younger children need less -- 700 mg of calcium for kids ages 1 to 3, increasing to 1,000 mg from 4 to 8.

Too Much Calcium

Hypercalcemia refers to high levels of calcium in your bloodstream. Consuming calcium through food and supplements generally does not result in hypercalcemia, but it can occur in rare cases. You are more at risk if you have thyroid problems, namely primary hyperparathyrodism. Excess calcium can lead to kidney failure, kidney stones, blood vessel and soft tissue calcification and calcium in the urine. Calcium supplements may put you more at risk for kidney stones than calcium-rich foods.

Tolerable Upper Limits

Children ages 9 to 18, who generally require the most daily calcium, should limit calcium intake to 3,000 mg per day, the tolerable upper limit. For adults 19 to 50, the limit is 2,500 mg of daily calcium, decreasing to a limit of 2,000 mg for older adults 51 and older. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so consuming foods such as egg yolk, liver and fortified milk, as well as sun exposure, will help maintain calcium in your system.

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