Harvard Health Letter

Do we really need all that calcium?

Recent studies suggest that there's been too much focus on calcium for bone health and fracture prevention.

Calcium serves many functions in the body, but the main one is to form the structures that give our bones and teeth their strength and shape. As we get older, the mineral content (there's some phosphorus in there as well) of our skeleton declines. Our bones start to thin out bit by bit, so they become less dense, more brittle, and more likely to break. When this thinning advances to a certain point, it's called osteoporosis. Each year in the United States there are 1.5 million bone fractures associated with osteoporosis, and 250,000 of those breaks will involve a hip.

Negative results

For years, high calcium intake has been portrayed as one of the best things you could do to prevent osteoporosis and related fractures. Research results supported this view, although many of the studies were fairly small and short.

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