No multivitamin contains the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium, according to Jane Higdon, Ph.D. of Linus Pauling Institute Research. In fact, if multivitamins contained the recommended daily amount of calcium, the pills would be too large to swallow. Calcium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in bone health and helps reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis in the elderly.
Calcium helps support a healthy heart, muscles, nerves and especially bones. According to the National Institutes of Health, the high rate of osteoporosis in America is proof that most people are not getting enough calcium in their diet. In some cases, calcium supplementation may be necessary to meet these needs, but talk to your doctor before taking this route. Multivitamins do not have the RDA for calcium, so you cannot rely on them to meet your daily calcium needs.
Vitamin D plays a critical role in calcium absorption. Without enough vitamin D each day, your body is unable to get enough of the hormone calcitriol, which causes the body to draw calcium from your bones. This is how your bones can weaken over time. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you should aim for 600 to 800 international units of vitamin D per day. You can achieve this level by exposing your skin to sunlight or by eating saltwater fish, egg yolks or fortified milk.
The RDA for calcium intake increases as you age. For instance, infants require just 200 mg per day while the elderly need 1,200 mg each day, according to the NIH. Teenagers and pregnant or lactating women need additional calcium in their diet at 1,300 mg per day. Dietary sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt and fortified foods. For instance, 1 cup of nonfat milk contains 302 mg of calcium. Taking multivitamins containing little or no calcium requires that you obtain your daily calcium needs through dietary means or supplementation.
Choosing a high-quality multivitamin or supplement is the safest way to go because it ensures the product is safe and free of unwanted elements like lead and other metals. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) offers a program called the Dietary Supplement Verification Program, which inspects multivitamins and supplements for impurities. Choose a product with the USP seal on the packaging to ensure that it’s of the highest quality.