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I'm trying to be vegan, but it seems that vegan foods lack sufficient calcium to meet the Recommended Daily Intake of 1000 mg/day. I'm wondering if I should take calcium supplements, but I'm worried that some sources suggest an association between calcium supplements (and maybe calcium-fortified foods) and disease.

Calcium supplements linked to disease

This post on the Harvard Health Blog links supplemental calcium to heart disease.

Over 12 years of follow-up, men who took more than 1,000 milligrams (mg) of daily supplemental calcium were 20% more likely to succumb to heart disease than those who didn’t take calcium supplements.

A 2013 article on the NY Times Blog shows more research linking supplemental calcium with heart attack.

Dr. Bolland then reanalyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative and found a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack among women who took calcium with or without vitamin D. In this case, the increased risk occurred only among those women assigned to take supplemental calcium who had not already been taking it when the study began.

An older 2011 article in The New York Times warned that high dose calcium supplements may contribute to kidney stones.

The institute’s expert committee, which included bone specialists, concluded that most people don’t need supplements of these critical nutrients and warned of serious health risks from the high doses some now take — including kidney stones and heart disease linked to calcium supplements, and the very falls and fractures that vitamin D is meant to protect against.

Questions about calcium-fortified foods

  • How and why would the calcium carbonate from calcium supplements be asserted as worse than that in the fortified foods?
  • Isn't solid calcium carbonate (e.g. in supplements) chemically the same as aqueous calcium carbonate (e.g. in fortified drinks)?
  • Are calcium supplements really worse than fortified foods with calcium?
  • ".... purely natural foods lack sufficient calcium for the Recommended Daily Intake." This means that you're not eating enough green leafy vegetables. If your diet lacks calcium or some other critical mineral, then you also have to ask what else could be missing, because the essential vitamins and minerals are just part of what you need to get for good health. Not enough green leafy vegetables ---> lack of vitamin K, lack of Lutein and zeaxanthin and likely many other compounds that are needed but not yet identified as important for health. – Count Iblis Aug 18 '17 at 21:26
  • @CountIblis eating ~600g of kale (for example) every day sounds pretty tiring. It's one thing to eat plenty of vegetables, it's another to eat plenty of a very small subset. – Alex Hall Aug 22 '17 at 13:36
  • @AlexHall, See here. – Count Iblis Aug 23 '17 at 3:13
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There is a PDF here Meeting Calcium Recommendations on a Vegan Diet

There are many plant-based sources of calcium including certain leafy green vegetables, broccoli, some types of tofu, almonds, black beans, vegetarian baked beans, and blackstrap molasses. Vegans can also choose from among calcium-fortified foods including fruit juices, breakfast cereals, protein bars, and plant milks made from soy, almonds, rice, hempseed, and rice.

See the PDF for additional details.

If you feel you are deficient in calcium perhaps take a supplement 3 x / week.

I personally would not put a lot of weight into which form of Calcium is better / worse than any other other than to say that anything in excess is toxic so while you do need calcium for health, excessive calcium can be detrimental by causing kidney stones for example so no need to take excessive doses.

If in doubt, ask your doctor to measure your calcium levels.

I also suggest you have your Vitamin D level checked and keep it between 30-50. I would not take supplemental Vitamin D if you are not deficient ( Vitamin D < 30 ) as fat soluble vitamins are toxic when taken in excess ( Vitamin D levels > 80 ) .

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