Asked by Randall Cottingham, Snellville, Georgia
Should middle-age guys who rarely drink milk take a calcium supplement?
Diet and Fitness Expert
Dr. Melina Jampolis
Physician Nutrition Specialist
Hi Randall. This is a good question and brings up several important points. First of all, osteoporosis in men is becoming an increasing public health concern. In fact, one of five men over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone because of osteoporosis. As men age, decreases in bone and muscle mass caused by hormonal changes and decreased physical activity are to blame, in addition to inadequate dietary calcium intake and/or inadequate calcium absorption because of intestinal issues.
Staying physically active, not smoking, not drinking excessive alcohol, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and low in saturated fat and salt can help decrease your risk of osteoporosis. Even if you rarely drink milk, there are lots of other good food sources of calcium including cheese, yogurt, fortified cereals and juices, canned sardines and salmons with bones, collard greens, spinach and tofu. If you don't eat any of these foods on a regular basis, you might consider taking a calcium supplement to reach the recommended daily allowance of calcium in men which is 1,000 mg for men age 19-50 and 1,200 mg for men older than 50. Don't forget to include vitamin D which is equally important for bone health. The RDA of vitamin D, which will most likely increase in the near future, is 200 IU (internationa units) for men 19-50, 400 IU for men 50-70, and 600 IU for men older than 70. You can also get vitamin D from sun exposure but your ability to do so decreases as you age.
If you take decide to take a supplement, calcium carbonate is the least expensive, but if you take antacids frequently or are on acid-blocking medication for ulcers or reflux, calcium citrate is a better choice, as it is better absorbed in a lower acid environment. Calcium carbonate is best taken with food but calcium citrate can be taken with or without food. In addition, your body cannot absorb more than 500 mg of calcium at one time so you must take a supplement twice a day.
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