Calcium is a mineral that plays a major role in various bodily functions. While people know calcium can help maintain stronger bones and teeth, your body needs it for many reasons. Find out the news about calcium, why it is important for people with diabetes and how too much of a good thing can become problem.

  • Calcium SupplementCalcium helps you maintain better bone health. It also contributes to muscle contraction, blood clotting and the secretion of hormones. Lately there has been controversy about taking calcium supplements. After 135 studies were reviewed by the US Preventive Service Task Force, they suggested that “post menopausal women refrain from taking calcium supplements since there was little evidence that it helped prevent fractures”. Another recent study done on over 24,000 Europeans suggests that “calcium supplements may increase cardiovascular disease since it lead to 2 times the amount of heart attacks experienced by those taking supplements”. Other studies have shown that taking calcium by itself may be the problem. Taken in combination with magnesium and vitamin K2 may be a better option with more benefits. When magnesium levels are low, it allows too much calcium into the cells and possibly causes arthrosclerosis. Calcium builds up in the soft tissues and artery linings causing “hardening of the arteries”. Vitamin K2 may help keep the calcium out of the arterial wall and in the bone. Calcium supplements raise the risk of kidney stones which is more common in those with diabetes. Taking calcium citrate supplements are best when kidney stones are a problem. If osteopenia or osteoporosis is present, calcium supplements are still being recommended but first speak to your health care provider.
  • Studies have also shown people should not get too much of a good thing. Excessive calcium can cause side effects such as increased urination, toxicity of the kidneys and vomiting. Calcium supplements can cause contraindications with other medication, including blood pressure and hormonal medications.
  • It is always best to get calcium from dietary sources although it may be difficult to have all needs met through foods. Increase your intake of low fat milk if you are not lactose intolerant. Add soy, Lactaid or rice milk for calcium if lactose is a problem. Yogurt has even more calcium than milk (not frozen yogurt) and should be included in your daily diet. Tofu, sardines and salmon in cans with bones are also excellent sources of dietary calcium. Think about eating kale, broccoli, almonds and dried figs for increasing calcium dietary intake.
  • Rely on strengthening bones by doing weight bearing or resistance training exercise. Walking, jogging or lines dancing are all considered great forms of weight bearing exercises.
  • If you decide with your health care provider to take calcium supplements, do not take them within 2 hours of ingesting caffeine as it will limit the absorption. Take the supplements with a meal containing a healthy fat which will help increase absorption. Do not take more than 500-600mg at a time since you will not be able to absorb it; break up your daily 1200mg recommended dosage over the morning and evening meals. Foods with oxalate such as spinach and chocolate may negatively affect absorption rates. Foods containing iron such as raisins and red meat can negatively affect absorption as well as phytates found in whole grains.
  • Some studies have shown a link between diabetes and calcium. It may be related to insulin secretions and/or insulin resistance and how the body regulates calcium. Factors that were not considered during the study included the intake of Vitamin D which is involved in calcium regulation, and the participants’ level of physical activity.
  • Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found a cellular defect that links to the function of the pancreas and may impair the body’s ability to handle high blood glucose levels. This could ultimately lead to a new treatment for diabetes in the future. The experimental drug, called Rycal, has improved glucose tolerance and insulin secretion in mouse models.
  • As mentioned, a well-balanced calcium rich diet and daily exercise still play a huge role in proper diabetes self-management for those who need extra calcium. Test your blood sugar regularly and use a blood pressure monitor to gauge and record your blood pressure results. Take medications as directed and talk to your health care team about supplements before taking them.

While certain people may need extra calcium for weaker bones due to osteopenia or osteoporosis, it might not be necessary to take calcium supplements. Too much calcium can lead to other health issues. Ask your doctor about dietary choices, exercise and other ways to help keep your calcium levels adequate.