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Calcium and Vitamin D: How Much is too Much?

Getting enough vitamin D and calcium is essential, but is there such as thing as too much of a good thing? Read on to see if you are getting too much of these nutrients.
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Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients in the body for bone health, teeth health, and immune system support. Calcium is not only used for bone health, but it also a necessary mineral for nearly all of the body’s systems from hormone regulation to muscle health.

Vitamin D is responsible for providing support throughout the body, including in strong bones, a healthy nervous system, and a strong immune system.

Combined, vitamin D and calcium provide essential support to maintain optimal health. With the modern diet, many Americans are severely deficient in these two vital nutrients. The normal cure for this issue is to increase the amount of natural vitamin D and calcium sources in the diet while supplementing to fill in any nutrient gaps.

However, it is possible to overdose on nutrients which offer their own health risks. Is it possible to overdose on calcium and vitamin D? Find out the risks of calcium and vitamin D overdosing and how much you should be getting each day below:

The Role of Calcium in the Body

Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body. In fact, it is the most prevalent mineral in the body. About 99 percent of calcium is used to support healthy teeth and bones. However, a small amount of calcium also has other purposes. Calcium is used in the heart, muscles, nerves, and many of the body’s other systems.

Calcium is difficult for the body to absorb on its own. Calcium requires a variety of other nutrients to maximize absorption. The nutrients that support full use and absorption of calcium include vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, and phosphorous.

Health Benefits of Calcium

Calcium can protect the body from several health problems- mainly bone and teeth related. Studies show that getting enough calcium is vital to prevent the following health issues:

Osteoporosis

Bones lose strength over time, generally starting around age 30. Getting enough calcium can prevent this from occurring. Women are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis than men, which makes calcium especially important for women.

Premenstrual Syndrome

According to the University of Maryland, women who take 1,200 of calcium per day were able to reduce their PMS symptoms by 50 percent. This indicates that calcium is an essential mineral for easing PMS symptoms and pain. In the study, women had fewer headaches, fewer mood swings, reduced cravings, and less bloating.

High Blood Pressure

The University of Maryland states that individuals who have a lack of calcium in the diet may be at higher risk for developing high blood pressure. Some studies have indicated that taking calcium supplements can reduce blood pressure. Studies have not proved if calcium supplements are as effective as natural calcium (such as from dairy products), which indicates that individuals should try to include a wide variety of natural sources of calcium in the diet in combination with any supplements. According to the studies, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to see any benefits in blood pressure.

Weight Loss

A few studies have linked the intake of dairy with an increase in weight loss in obese individuals. However, researchers are not sure if it is the calcium in the dairy or some other nutrient or fat that promotes weight loss.

Other Benefits of Calcium Intake
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Prevents rickets
  • Reduces risk of stroke
  • May help prevent colorectal cancer

The Role of Vitamin D in the Body

Just like calcium, vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients in the body. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it is absorbed best along with a healthy fat source. The body can store vitamin D for future use, and when exposed to sunlight, you can even make your own vitamin D.

In one study, researchers found that 43 to 54 percent of women living in the Northern United States had low levels of vitamin D.

High levels of vitamin D have been linked with a reduced chance of developing many health problems, such as cancer, high blood pressure, obesity, and depression. Vitamin D supports many functions in the body, including healthy bones and teeth, the immune system, and the regulation of the nervous system.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Getting enough vitamin D has been linked with a reduced rate of developing the following health conditions:

Osteoporosis

Vitamin D is essential for helping the body use calcium effectively. This means that without vitamin D, bones are likely to form poorly. Taking vitamin D along with calcium can reduce the rate of bone loss.

Cancer

Several studies have indicated that getting enough vitamin D in the diet can lower the risk of developing a few types of cancer. Specifically, vitamin D intake has been linked with a reduced risk in colon, skin, pancreas, prostate, and breast cancer. In test tubes, some studies have found that vitamin D has an anti-cancer effect. To date, however, no studies have specifically examined vitamin D’s reduction in cancer risk or measured how much vitamin D is needed to lower cancer risk.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a seasonal form of depression that is caused by a reduced exposure to sunlight. According to the University of Maryland, taking vitamin D supplements can help prevent this temporary depression from developing.

Other Benefits of Vitamin D Intake
  • Possible reduction in diabetes risk
  • May help prevent heart disease
  • May lower cholesterol
  • May reduce risk for MS
  • Reduces overall mortality risk

Can High Doses Cause Problems in the Body?

Most nutrients require a level balance in the body. Nutrients that are beneficial in moderate doses may be toxic in large doses. So how much vitamin D and calcium is too much? What can happen if you eat too much of either nutrient?

Recommended Doses for Vitamin D and Calcium

According to the National Institute of Health, adults should take between 1,000 mg and 1,300 of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D each day. The amount of calcium varies by age and whether or not a woman is pregnant or nursing. Individuals over age 50 should take 1,200 of calcium daily. Teens of both genders, pregnant women, and nursing women are recommended to take 1,300 mg of calcium daily.

Possible Complications from Overdosing on Vitamin D and Calcium

According to research, it is possible to overdose on both vitamin D and calcium. Overdosing on vitamin D can cause problems stemming from a high buildup of calcium in the blood, which can cause loss of appetite, nausea, weakness, frequent urination, and kidney problems.

However, studies show that is takes an intake of about 50,000 IU of vitamin D daily for three months to reach toxic levels. Taking over 300,000 IU of vitamin D in one day may also cause toxicity problems. This is a dosage amount 83 times higher than the recommended intake.

According to research, sun exposure will never lead to an overabundance of vitamin D because the body will only make vitamin D when it needs it. The only way to overdose on vitamin D is to take massive supplement doses. It is highly unlikely that even someone taking vitamin D supplements would overdose since the toxic amount is so many times greater than the amount contained in most supplements.

It is easier to overdose on calcium, a Swedish study published in 2013 found. A research team from Uppsala University tracked over 60,000 women for nearly 20 years. This study found that women who consumed more than 1,400 mg of calcium each day were 49 percent more likely to die from heart disease and 40 percent more likely to die for any reason. This is much more concerning than the potential risk from consuming too much vitamin D.

According to the study, taking high doses of calcium will flood the bloodstream with the mineral, which increases the presence of a protein known as fibroblast growth factor 23. This protein is linked to the development of heart disease.

The National Institute of Health shows similar, but not quite as deadly, risks from excessive calcium intake. According to the NIH, high calcium intake from supplements (but not from natural sources) can cause renal insufficiency, calcification of soft tissues, constipation, and kidney stones. According to studies from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, few people have too-high calcium levels. The study found that only about 5 percent of women older than age 50 exceed the tolerable upper intake levels of daily calcium, and only by about 300 mg. Unlike the Swedish study,

The National Institute of Health states that most adults can take up to 3,000 mg of calcium daily without suffering ill effects.

The Best Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D

Vitamin D and calcium present in foods are best for optimal health. Research indicates that it is rare to have side effects from too much calcium or vitamin D when taken through food sources. It is only when individuals overdose with supplements that it can become a problem. However, supplementing for extra calcium and vitamin D can be extremely helpful, particularly for individuals who remain indoors most of the time and eat little dairy or seafood.

Where to Find Vitamin D Naturally: Cod liver oil, Sunlight, Fatty fish, Eggs

Where to Find Calcium Naturally: Cheese, Milk, Yogurt, Blackstrap molasses, Cream, Nuts, Dark leafy greens, Fatty fish, Seafood

Preventing Calcium and Vitamin D Overdose

While the risks of overdosing on calcium and vitamin D can be dangerous, unless you are taking massive quantities of supplements, you probably will not see any of the risky side effects. Vitamin D is incredibly difficult to overdose, and calcium is only harmful when taken in excess of recommended doses in supplement form. In general, if you take calcium supplements in addition to eating dairy, you will most likely not suffer any ill effects.

However, if you do take calcium supplements, it is important to monitor your daily intake to avoid the risk of overdosing. Calcium overdoses can lead to conditions such as kidney stones and constipation, so it is important to monitor intake to prevent these unhealthy side effects.

Calcium and Vitamin D: Important for Your Health

Although it is possible to overdose on calcium and vitamin D, it is far more likely that you are deficient in these two vital nutrients. Women, in particular, have a high risk of calcium deficiency. Combining a diet filled with calcium and vitamin D-rich foods with normal-dosage supplementing will provide the benefits of sufficient calcium and vitamin D intake without causing any of the potentially dangerous side effects.

Sources


http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/winter11/articles/winter11pg12.html

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/#h8

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-d

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