How Calcium Lowers Cholesterol

There are many health benefits of calcium, such as strengthening bones, but it could be heart-friendly, too. Some studies are finding that calcium lowers cholesterol.

A woman holding her calcium supplements
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Calcium’s ability to lower cholesterol has been known for several years. Calcium supplements have been shown to slightly reduce blood pressure in some studies. Lowering cholesterol levels is the most recent finding, but studies are mixed about whether or not it really works.

How Does Calcium Lower Cholesterol?

Scientists really don’t know how calcium works. It is thought to work by binding to bile acids and cholesterol in the small intestine, similar to the way fiber and bile acid resins work. By binding to cholesterol in the small intestine, cholesterol is not absorbed into the blood and is instead excreted out of the body in the feces.

What Do the Studies Suggest?

In one study where elemental calcium appeared to lower cholesterol levels, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels were mainly affected. The study showed that roughly one gram of calcium can raise HDL by between 1 and 5% and lower LDL by anywhere between 2 and 6%. Triglycerides were not affected.However, there were other studies that did now show any significant effect on cholesterol due to increased calcium consumption.

How Much Calcium You Need

While there have been some studies that suggest that elemental calcium may slightly lower cholesterol, there are other studies that suggest calcium has no significant effect on cholesterol. Because of this, using solely calcium to lower your cholesterol is not recommended. If you are looking to add calcium to your health regimen, you should consult with your healthcare provider.

The recommended daily allowance for elemental calcium in adults is between 1000 and 1300 mg a day, with diet—rather than supplements—being the preferred source of calcium. This is roughly the same amount used in some of the studies looking at calcium’s ability to lower cholesterol.

Calcium content is high in foods such as dairy products, leafy greens, and citrus fruits; however, supplements containing calcium are also widely available. If you are taking calcium supplements, keep in mind that these studies measured elemental calcium, so be sure and read the labels of your calcium supplements to determine the amount of elemental calcium in each product. And more isn’t necessarily better—consuming too much calcium could lead to health problems.

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Additional Reading
  • Bell L, Halstenson CE, Halstenson CJ, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of calcium carbonate in patients with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. Arch Inter Med 1992; 152: 2441-2444
  • Bostich RM, Fosdick L, Grandits GA et al. Effects of calcium supplementation on serum cholesterol and blood pressure. Arch Fam Med 2000; 9:31-39.
  • Dipiro JT, Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiological Approach., 9th edition. McGraw Hill Education 2014.
  • Ditscheid B, Keller S, and Jahreis Gerhard. Cholesterol metabolism is affected by calcium phosphate supplementation in humans. J Nutr 2005; 135: 1678-1682.
  • Reid IR, Mason B, Bolland MJ et al. Effects of calcium supplementation on lipids, blood pressure, and body composition healthy older men: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;91:313-139.