Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Tums for Calcium?

I have been told I should not be taking Tums as a source of calcium. Why not?

Answer (Published 10/30/2006)

Tums provide calcium as calcium carbonate (chalk), which is not always easily absorbed by the body. I recommend using calcium citrate, a form that is better absorbed.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Supplements & Herbs - If you are interested in supplementing your diet, and want to take the mystery out of choosing vitamins, try Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. Visit today for your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

Because Tums are less expensive than calcium supplements, you may prefer to risk the absorption problem in order to keep your costs down. This is less of a concern for younger people. But as you age, the amount of acid in the stomach decreases, and acid is necessary for absorption of calcium carbonate. You'll need to take three Tums tablets per day to get 600 mg of elemental calcium.

As you may know, I recently revised my calcium recommendation downward. I made the change after reviewing two large studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, which showed that calcium doesn't actually reduce the risk of osteoporosis as we once thought. I now suggest that women supplement with only 500 to 700 mg of calcium citrate in two divided doses taken with meals, for a total daily intake of 1,000-1,200 mg from all sources. You may want to reduce your supplemental calcium if you ingest high amounts of dietary calcium, such as dairy products such as milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt along with other calcium fortified foods like tofu, soy milk and orange juice. In the past, I recommended supplementing with 1,200 mg daily in divided doses and 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women who were not on hormone replacement therapy.

Men need even less calcium. I now recommend 500 mg from all dietary sources and suggest that men avoid taking any supplemental calcium. High intake of this mineral is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. One of the Harvard studies found that men who drank two glasses of milk a day (that translates to about 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium) had twice the incidence of developing advanced prostate cancer.

The lower amounts of calcium I now recommend should be sufficient to protect bones. However, the lifestyle measures listed below can also help prevent bone loss as you get older (after age 30 both men and women begin losing bone mass slowly; this accelerates for women after menopause):

  • Exercise regularly. Make sure to engage in both weight-bearing exercise (walking, jogging or anything else you can do on your feet) and strength training for muscles.
  • Be sure to get adequate vitamin D. I now recommend 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. The ultraviolet B rays of the sun trigger your skin to make vitamin D (provided you're not wearing sunscreen). We don't get much D in our diets, so if you don't get regular sun exposure, it is necessary to supplement with this vitamin.
  • Get adequate daily vitamin K (120 mcg for men, 90 mcg for women). Low intake has been linked to low bone density. You get vitamin K in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dark green lettuce, collard greens and kale.
  • Watch your protein intake. Too much can promote calcium loss from bones.
  • Take supplemental vitamin A only in the form of beta carotene, as part of a mixed carotenoid product. Preformed vitamin A (identified on vitamin labels as "retinol" or "vitamin A palmitate") can weaken bones.
  • Cut back on caffeine and sodas: too much of either can promote calcium excretion.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here