The NHS recommends that adults should be consuming 700mg of calcium – either through food or food supplements – each and every day. However, many health professionals believe that women actually need more calcium than men, and in the United States the recommended daily allowance is actually much more; around 1000mg for men, and up to 1300mg for women. So why do women need more?
Osteoporosis is more common in women than it is in men. It’s a condition which causes significant loss of bone density and, as many of us know, calcium is essential for bone health. Interestingly, there is a strong association between women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and women with low levels of calcium. A healthy calcium intake could help to minimise the risk of osteoporosis amongst older women.
Women can lose 20 percent of bone density in the years following menopause. This is because oestrogen, which is a hormone produced by the ovaries, has a protective effect on the bones. After menopause, the oestrogen levels in the body naturally begin to decline, leaving the bones vulnerable to density loss. A healthy calcium intake can help to support the bones for longer, helping them to remain strong.
Although it is widely understood that both men and women absorb less calcium from food as they get older, the decline in absorption rates is believed to be greater in women. This is because oestrogen plays an important role in calcium absorption and regulation in the body. Research has found that calcium absorption rates in women aged 75 and over are roughly 28 percent lower than in younger women.
Unfortunately, it’s reported that around 90 percent of all women aren’t getting enough calcium. However, it is relatively simple to include more calcium in the diet, either through food supplements, or by eating more calcium-rich foods. These include dairy products like milk and yogurt, leafy greens like kale, and unsalted tree nuts such as almonds. Research suggests that a calcium intake of up to 1500mg per day is safe and healthy for adults, although excessive intakes could lead to stomach upset.