Scientists warn that calcium supplements increase cancer risk

If you take a calcium supplement, your reasons for doing so are usually good. For many, it’s a reliable way to prevent osteoporosis. Others use them as a way to promote better mental health, as calcium aids the body in processing vitamin D. Whatever your reasons for using calcium supplements are, the latest research may worry you.

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, taking a calcium supplement that’s higher than 1,000 milligrams per day increases your risk of cancer. Interestingly, you can eat or drink the same amount of calcium and your risk doesn’t increase. As 43% of the U.S. population takes these supplements, it’s worth looking into the study further.

What did the study reveal about calcium supplements?

The research team analyzed the medical records of 27,000 people. They found that those taking more than the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of 1,000 milligrams per day doubled their cancer risk. These figures came following a 12-year follow-up period. When looking at non-users of calcium supplements, the researchers found that 12 in 1,000 died from cancer. That number rose to 24 in 1,000 for those using high doses.

So why the focus on just supplements and not higher-than-normal levels of calcium overall? The researchers did look at those who consumed high volumes of calcium but found that their risk of cancer didn’t increase. This suggests that it’s calcium in its supplementary form that’s problematic, not calcium itself.

How can you add more calcium to your diet?

Aside from building strong bones, your body needs calcium for lots of reasons. It protects your heart, regulates muscle function, and helps your nerves to function properly. Without calcium, your body would struggle a lot.

If you want to add more calcium to your diet but you no longer enjoy the idea of calcium supplements, try the following foods:

  • Eat cheese, especially parmesan.
  • A tablespoon of seeds covers 13% of your RDI.
  • One cup of yogurt provides 30% of your RDI.
  • One cup of beans provides 24% of your RDI.
  • Almonds are calcium-rich.
  • Collard greens feature lots of calcium, plus plenty of antioxidants.
  • Dried figs pack plenty of calcium.
  • A cup of milk contains as much as 35% of your RDI.

Overall, you’ll only need to make a few adaptations to your diet to get enough calcium without taking calcium supplements.

Why should you prioritize calcium in your diet?

Like many minerals, calcium plays an essential role in your diet. Adding enough of it to your diet means it stores itself in your bones. When your bones need to rebuild or strengthen themselves, they’ll turn to their calcium stores to make this happen. This is why it’s essential for healthy childhood development and for preventing osteoporosis.

As for your heart, it protects you when your potassium levels grow too high. This is known as hyperkalemia. By protecting your cardiac muscle against influxes of potassium, it reduces your risk of acute cardiac events.

If you’re not getting enough calcium right now, consider adding it to your diet the natural way.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.