Some dietary supplements, such as calcium and iron, should not be combined, as they may interact with one another. However, this isn't the case with calcium and folic acid tablets. These supplements can be taken together for better health and wellbeing.
Calcium does not interact with folic acid. It's perfectly safe and even beneficial to take these supplements together.
The Role of Folic Acid
Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, is best known for its beneficial effects during pregnancy. This B vitamin may protect against birth defects and miscarriage while reducing the risk of folate-deficiency anemia in women of reproductive age. But its potential benefits don't end here.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), folate supports the metabolism of amino acids and may lower the risk of stroke and some types of cancer. Although it doesn't improve cognitive function, it may slow down cognitive decline in those who are at risk for this condition. Low folate levels have been linked to depression in several studies, meaning that this B vitamin may have a neuroprotective role.
Read more: Is Folic Acid Good for Men?
The best time to take folic acid is during pregnancy. Otherwise, a balanced diet should provide optimal amounts of folate from food. This water-soluble vitamin occurs naturally in leafy greens, legumes, citrus fruits, seafood, meat and fish. Beef liver, for example, provides more than half of the daily recommended intake of folate per 3-ounce serving, reports the NIH.
Generally, men and women should aim for about 400 micrograms a day. If you're carrying a baby, try to get approximately 600 micrograms of folate daily. A February 2018 review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences states that folic acid intakes below 1,000 micrograms per day are safe.
Are Calcium Supplements Really Necessary?
Calcium is essential for bone health. It's also the most abundant mineral in the human body, states the U.S. National Library of Medicine. About 99 percent of it is stored in the bones and teeth. Your body needs this mineral for hormone production, muscle contraction, bone growth and other biological processes.
While it's true that calcium can be found in a wide range of foods, some people cannot absorb it properly. Others, especially vegetarians, vegans and individuals with lactose intolerance, may have a difficult time getting enough calcium from food. Postmenopausal women may become deficient in this mineral too, warns the NIH. The same goes for female athletes with exercise-induced amenorrhea, a condition that may affect bone mass and calcium balance.
Calcium supplements may benefit those who are at risk for deficiencies. Ideally, choose a supplement containing calcium carbonate, as it's absorbed more efficiently. Calcium citrate is a better choice for those with inflammatory bowel diseases and other health conditions that affect calcium absorption.
The daily recommended calcium intake for adult men and women is 1,000 milligrams a day, states the NIH. Teenagers need up to 1,300 milligrams per day, while seniors should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily.
Can You Take Folic Acid and Calcium Together?
Calcium should not be taken at the same time as iron supplements, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, this recommendation is subject to debate.
According to a March 2015 review published in Advances in Nutrition, calcium may inhibit iron absorption, but its effect is negligible. Researchers state that health care providers should not advise patients to take calcium and iron/folic acid (IFA) supplements separately during pregnancy.
There are no interactions between calcium and folic acid tablets. A June 2014 study featured in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin actually highlights the potential benefits of a combined calcium, iron and folic acid prenatal formula.
Discuss with your doctor before popping pills. If you're healthy and have a balanced diet, you may not need supplements at all. Too much calcium may interact with zinc and iron absorption and put you at risk for kidney stones, heart disease, constipation and other ailments.
High folic acid intakes are not safer either. Too much of this vitamin may increase cancer risk, mask vitamin B12 deficiency and affect immune function, warns the NIH. These findings require further research, but it's something worth considering. If you suspect you're deficient in folic acid or calcium, consult your doctor or have some blood tests.
- Office on Women's Health: "Folic Acid"
- NIH: "Folate"
- Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: "Safety of Folic Acid"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Calcium"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Calcium in Diet"
- NIH: "Calcium"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Taking Iron Supplements"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Calcium Supplementation to Prevent Preeclampsia: Translating Guidelines Into Practice in Low-Income Countries"
- Food and Nutrition Bulletin: "Design and Development of a Combined Calcium—Iron—Folic Acid Prenatal Supplement to Support Implementation of the New World Health Organization Recommendations for Calcium Supplementation During Pregnancy"
- NIH: "Calcium: Can Calcium Be Harmful?"