What Is Calcium Used For?
Calcium is used for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It is also sometimes claimed to be useful for treating heartburn and indigestion, reducing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, and decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. While some uses of calcium have been clearly established and are completely accepted by the medical community, other uses may have little or no supporting scientific evidence.
An Overview of Calcium Uses
Calcium is one of the most popular dietary supplements on the market, probably for good reason. In addition to a few well-established uses, people are now taking calcium for a variety of different health benefits (some of which are more legitimate than others). Some of the most common calcium uses include:
- Treating (and sometimes preventing) the following conditions:
- Heartburn and indigestion (in the form of calcium carbonate)
- High potassium levels in the blood (in the form of injectable calcium gluconate)
- Low calcium levels in the blood (in both oral and injectable forms)
- High phosphate levels in the blood due to kidney failure
- An overactive thyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)
- Excessive fluoride levels in children (fluorosis)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency caused by the drug metformin (Fortamet®, Glucophage®, Glucophage XR, Glumetza™, Riomet®)
- Increasing fetal bone density when taken during pregnancy
- Reducing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
- Reducing the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer
- Reducing the risk of strokes
- Lowering the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) and preeclampsia
- Promoting weight loss
- Relieving leg cramps during pregnancy
- Decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
While some calcium uses have been clearly established and are completely accepted by the medical community, other uses may have little or no supporting scientific evidence (see Does Calcium Work? for more information). For several uses, a high dietary intake of calcium (through foods but not calcium supplementation) has been shown to provide certain benefits. It should not be assumed that taking calcium supplements will always provide the exact same benefits as a calcium-rich diet.