Health Canada

Health Canada

October 05, 2010 10:45 ET

Information Update: Ongoing Review of Calcium Supplements

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 5, 2010) - Health Canada is informing Canadians that it is conducting an ongoing review of the benefits and risks associated with taking calcium supplements.

Health Canada is issuing this communication in light of public interest and media reports regarding a study ( ) published in the British Medical Journal that identified a potential link between the use of calcium supplements (used without supplementary vitamin D) and an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, in patients with, or at risk of, osteoporosis.

Health Canada has reviewed this study, its strengths and limitations, and determined that it does not demonstrate a conclusive association between calcium supplementation and cardiovascular risks. We will continue to evaluate new data as they emerge and will take appropriate action as necessary, including informing Canadians.

Calcium is a nutrient that helps in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth, especially in children, teens and young adults. Adequate calcium (and vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium) throughout life, through diet and/or supplements, may help prevent bone loss and may reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. Calcium (in combination with vitamin D) is also used as treatment for osteoporosis. Recommendations for calcium intake for healthy individuals are based on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). DRIs are scientifically-based nutrient reference values for adequate intake levels and safe upper levels of intake.

The DRIs for calcium are currently under review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which is an independent organisation. Their review, which is being undertaken at the request of Health Canada and several U.S. federal agencies, will examine the latest scientific evidence related to calcium with a view to updating the DRIs. Health Canada will examine the findings of this IOM review once it is complete and use the information to assess and update the current recommended intake levels for calcium, if required.

Until the DRIs have been updated, Health Canada continues to recommend a daily total calcium intake, whether through diet and/or supplementation, as follows:

Population Calcium Adequate Intake (mg/day)
Children aged 1-3 years 500
Children aged 4-8 years 800
Adolescents aged 18 and under (including pregnant and breastfeeding women in this age group) 1,300
Adults aged 19-50 years (including pregnant and breastfeeding women in this age group) 1,000
Adults aged 51 and over 1,200

Calcium supplementation alone should not exceed 1,500 mg/day for all age groups. As well, Health Canada recommends that everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (400 IU) in addition to following Canada's Food Guide ( ).

Canadians with questions or concerns about calcium supplements should speak to a health care practitioner. Health Canada reminds consumers to tell their health care practitioner about all the medications and natural health products they use, including drugs, herbal products and vitamin/mineral supplements, especially if they take supplements on a daily basis. Canadians are also reminded to read product labels carefully, and to follow the directions for use.

For more information on osteoporosis, Health Canada has developed an It's Your Health article on Seniors and Aging - Osteoporosis ( ). Consumers looking for more information on calcium and calcium supplementation may also wish to visit the Osteoporosis Canada ( website.

To report suspected adverse reaction to a health product, please contact Health Canada's Canada Vigilance Program toll-free at 1-866-234-2345, or complete a Reporting Form ( ) and send it to us using one of these methods:

Fax: 1-866-678-6789
Mail: Canada Vigilance Program
  Marketed Health Products Directorate
  Ottawa , ON , Address Locator 0701C
  K1A 0K9

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