The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 encourage everyone to meet the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for calcium, which is critical for maintaining bone density. Since peak bone density forms before age 30, it is especially important to get enough calcium in your diet while you are young to prevent illness related to calcium deficiencies later in life. However, middle-aged and older men also benefit from getting enough calcium since bone is broken down and rebuilt throughout life.
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RDA for Calcium
According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended dietary allowance for calcium for healthy males between the ages of 19 and 70 years is 1,000 milligrams per day. The recommendations increase to 1,200 milligrams for males after age 70. Vitamin D is also essential for absorption of calcium, and the RDA for vitamin D for men between ages 19 and 70 is approximately 600 IU per day and 800 units per day over age 70.
Sources of Calcium
According to the National Institutes of Health, the richest sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. They contain approximately 300 to 400 milligrams per 8-ounce serving. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend choosing the low-fat or nonfat varieties for optimal health. Certain plant foods such as leafy green vegetables contain around 100 milligrams per cup. Almond, rice or soy milk are supplemented with amounts of calcium and vitamin D similar to what is present in cow's milk and are an appropriate alternative for those who do not wish to consume dairy.
How Calcium Works
As you get older, your bones become more porous and are more likely to break. This is called osteoporosis. MedlinePlus reports that one-quarter of all men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. According to an article published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" in August 2012, the cells involved in bone formation are constantly breaking down and rebuilding bone and rely on hormones and calcium in the bloodstream to form the hard substance of bone called apatite, which is a combination of phosphorus and calcium.
Some men may wonder if they need to take a calcium supplement. For most healthy men, supplementation is not necessary and it is better to get the recommended 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium from food. Taking more than 1,000 milligrams of calcium supplements per day may be harmful to a man's cardiovascular health, according to an article published in "JAMA Internal Medicine" in April 2013. There was no correlation, however, between increased risk of heart disease and calcium from food.
- JAMA Internal Medicine: Dietary and Supplemental Calcium Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: The National Institutes of Health - AARP Diet and Health Study
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D
- MedlinePlus: Osteoporosis
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: The Role of Intracellular Calcium Phosphate in Osteoblast-Mediated Bone Apatite Formation
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium