Adequate calcium intake during childhood is necessary to achieve optimal peak bone mass and this has the potential by increasing bone reserves, to modulate the rate of age-associated bone loss. However, data regarding the efficacy of calcium obtained either through the diet or in the form of medicinal supplementation, for prevention of bone loss and osteoporotic fractures in the elderly is conflicting. Calcium alone is unlikely to be of benefit for this purpose though the co-administration of calcium and vitamin D may have modest fracture risk benefits. Supplemental calcium with or without vitamin D has recently come into the spotlight after the publication of the findings from a controversial randomized controlled trial that associated calcium supplementation with an increased risk of myocardial infarction. Since then, multiple studies have explored this potential link. The data remains conflicting and the potential mechanistic link if any exists, remains elusive. This review examines the relationship between supplemental calcium intake and skeletal and cardiovascular health in the aging individual through an appraisal of studies done on the subject in the last three decades. It also briefly details some of the studies evaluating fractional absorption of calcium in the elderly and the rationale behind the current recommended dietary allowances of calcium.
Keywords: Calcium supplementation; Cardiovascular risk; Dietary calcium; Fractional absorption; Fracture; Myocardial infarction.