Calcium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and hormones and is the most common mineral in your body. Your bones are made primarily of calcium. Doctors most commonly prescribe calcium supplements to help prevent or slow the bone loss that occurs as people age. As you age, your bones may become more porous and brittle. Taking calcium supplements can help slow or prevent this bone loss, but calcium may also help speed healing from fractures.
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When your bone breaks or cracks, your doctor immobilizes it so that the broken ends fit together. Then you wait for the bone to mend. Your body deposits calcium at the site of the break to repair the breach. If you're not getting enough calcium in your diet, it could take longer to marshal the reserves needed to make the repair, especially if you have a calcium deficiency. Calcium supplementation makes more calcium available for your body to use in healing a fracture.
In 2004, researchers in Copenhagen studied 30 women, ages 58 to 88, who experienced shoulder fractures. Half the women took calcium and vitamin D supplements for 12 weeks after their fracture, and the others took a placebo. The women who took the calcium and vitamin D had greater bone density at the fracture site than the other women after six weeks. This suggests that calcium and vitamin D supplements can help heal fractures.
Role of Vitamin D
The women in the Copenhagen study took vitamin D with calcium. Vitamin D transforms in the body into calcitriol, a hormone that helps your body absorb more calcium. Without the vitamin D, you could miss much of the benefit from taking calcium supplements. The women in the Copenhagen study took 800 international units of Vitamin D daily, along with calcium.
How Much Calcium?
The Copenhagen study looked at the effect of 1 gram of calcium daily, or 1,000 milligrams. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends adults to age 50 get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily from food and supplements. After age 50, women need 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, and after age 70, everyone should get 1,200 milligrams daily. You need 600 International units of vitamin D daily to age 70, then 800 International units daily after that.
- Calcified Tissue International; The Effects of Calcium and Vitamin D3 Supplementation on the Healing of the Proximal Humerus Fracture; A.M. Doetsch, et al.
- New York University Langone Medical Center; Calcium
- NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center; Calcium and Vitamin D -- Important at Every Age