Calcium supplements or dairy?

Meyken Houppermans, PhD. CrossFit Level 3 Trainer.
Founder and Head Coach
Calcium supplements seem to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, while dairy seems to lower that risk. What now?

Research shows that the daily intake of calcium supplements seems to increase the risk of cardiovascular dfisease and coronary heart disease by 15%, especially in postmenopausal women. The daily intake of dairy as a source of calcium seems to lower the risks. [1]


Calcium is a mineral required to build and maintain bones and teeth. It helps against osteoporosis later in life. Calcium is also important for proper functioning of nerves and muscles, blood clotting and transport of other minerals in the body. Vitamin D stimulates the absorption of calcium in the body. Some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may have benefits beyond bone health such as protection against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Daily intake

The Recommented Daily Allowance in The Netherlands for men between the ages of 29 and 69 and for women between the ages of 25 and 50 is 950 milligrams. For vitamin D this is 10 micrograms per day.

Calcium is found mainly in milk and dairy products such as cheese, but also in fish and soy, grain products such as bread, and certain vegetables such as green leafy ones. Not eating dairy can lead to a calcium deficiency. This can lead to impaired bone development at a young age and osteoporosis over time.

Although diet is the best way to get calcium, calcium supplements may be an option if a diet falls short for example with a vegan diet, lactose intolerance. Also people who take corticosteroids are in need of more calcium. Also a high protein as well as sodium intake can lead to excretion of more calcium.


The nutritional value of a product, in this case dairy, such as yoghurt, milk or cheese is much more than the sum of nutrients from which this product exists. The health effects of a product cannot fully be explained by the effects of individual nutrients from which that product is built. For instance, dairy products provide protection against cardiovascular diseases while containing saturated fat and in the case of cheese, a lot of salt.

The health aspects of a dairy product, such as the absorption of nutrients in the body or the feeling of saturation, are determined not only by the individual nutrients but also by the interaction of the nutrients in that product and by the structure of the food. This is what we call the food matrix.

Further research is needed to explain the precise impact of products. According to the Dutch Health Council consuming several servings of dairy per day is recommended.


Research shows the intake of calcium supplements might increase the risk of cardiovscular disease and coronary heart disease. Also, people who have a condition that causes excess calcium in the bloodstream are adviced not to take supplements.

Furtheremore, calcium supplements can interact with prescription medications, such as blood pressure medications, synthetic thyroid hormones, bisphosphonates, antibiotics and calcium channel blockers.


Dierary calcium, via dairy for example, is considered safe, but eating more will not lead to more results. Taking calcium supplements can lead to a too high intake, above 2500 miligrams per day. This can have health risks such as urinary tract stones and calcification of the kidneys and blood vessel walls. [2]

It is always adviced to consult a doctor before taking supplements.

Create your own health!© 


[1] Myung SK, Kim HB, Lee YJ, Choi YJ, Oh SW. Calcium Supplements and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 26;13(2):368. doi: 10.3390/nu13020368. PMID: 33530332; PMCID: PMC7910980.; Li K, Wang XF, Li DY, Chen YC, Zhao LJ, Liu XG, Guo YF, Shen J, Lin X, Deng J, Zhou R, Deng HW. The good, the bad, and the ugly of calcium supplementation: a review of calcium intake on human health. Clin Interv Aging. 2018 Nov 28;13:2443-2452. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S157523. PMID: 30568435; PMCID: PMC6276611.

[2] Mayo Clinic. Healthy lifestyle. Nutrition and healthy eating. Calcium and calcium supplements. Retreived March 2024.; Encyclopedie. Calcium. Retrieved March 2024.