There is a consensus that adequate calcium intake during bone development, and possibly in adulthood and senescence, helps to prevent bone resorption and osteoporosis. The uptake of dietary calcium should be sufficient to maintain both normal serum calcium concentrations and parathyroid hormone levels in the low normal range throughout the day, otherwise, increased bone resorption occurs. Calcium intake varies with race and with environmental and dietary conditions. Estimating the appropriate amount of calcium to be added to dietary sources for an optimal supplementation regimen is therefore difficult. Few intervention studies have evaluated the dose-effect relationship for calcium supplementation conclusively. The mechanisms regulating fractional calcium absorption as a function of intake suggest that very high daily doses are probably useless. They may be unsafe in the long term because of the risks of hypercalciuria and kidney stones, and of an imbalance in the ratio of calcium to magnesium. Concomitant supplementation with limited amounts of magnesium may reduce this risk and improve mineralization. Dietary intake is 500-600 mg/day in most studies, making 400 mg/day an appropriate supplementary dose for most premenopausal women (RDA 1000 mg/day). After the menopause and during lactation (RDA 1200-1500 mg/day), 800 mg/day is probably appropriate, particularly if low doses of vitamin D are taken concomitantly.