Calcium supplementation in clinical practice: a review of forms, doses, and indications

Nutr Clin Pract. 2007 Jun;22(3):286-96. doi: 10.1177/0115426507022003286.


Most Americans do not meet the adequate intake (AI) for calcium; calcium supplements can help meet requirements. Calcium supplementation has been found to be beneficial for bone health in children, young adults, and menopausal women. In addition to calcium, vitamin D is necessary for bone health and is generally deficient in the industrialized world. Calcium from carbonate and citrate are the most common forms of calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate, the most cost-effective form, should be taken with a meal to ensure optimal absorption. Calcium citrate can be taken without food and is the supplement of choice for individuals with achlorhydria or who are taking histamine-2 blockers or protein-pump inhibitors. Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate are less concentrated forms of calcium and are not practical oral supplements. Research on hydroxyapatite as a source of calcium is limited, so this form of calcium is not recommended. The maximum dose of elemental calcium that should be taken at a time is 500 mg. U.S. Pharmacopeia-verified calcium supplements meet vigorous manufacturing and quality requirements. Absorption from calcium-fortified beverages varies and in general is not equal to that of milk. Potential adverse effects of calcium supplementation include gastrointestinal complaints. Renal calculi in most studies have not been associated with calcium supplementation. The risk of advanced and fatal prostate cancer has been associated with calcium intakes from food or supplements in amounts >1500 mg/d.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Biological Availability
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Calcium / deficiency
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Calcium, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Calcium, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Sex Factors


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Calcium