The other morning I came downstairs to find Marge stirring her liquid calcium supplement into her calcium-fortified orange juice that would accompany her bowl of calcium-rich Total cereal, which was, of course, swimming in milk.
"Whoa, hold on there, my little buckaroo," I said. Well, not really — I just thought that sounded kind of cute.
No, what I actually said was something more boring and harsh, like: "I hope you don't think you've just taken care of your day's calcium needs." Yes, the sad truth is that when it comes to calcium, a little at a time goes a long way, but a lot all at once goes pretty much nowhere.
I'm not a dietitian or nutritionist, but I've read enough to know that our bodies absorb calcium best when it is taken in amounts of 500 milligrams or less. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that adults under age 50 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day and those over 50, 1,200 milligrams daily, in conjunction with appropriate amounts of vitamin D.
So if you're hoping to get the recommended amount of calcium but trying to do it all at once, whether through food or supplements, you've just wasted 500 to 700 milligrams of calcium, not to mention a lot of money over the course of a year in the case of supplements. Your body will better absorb calcium if it is consumed in smaller amounts spread throughout the day.
If you'd like to know more about the role of calcium and your health, the National Institutes of Health has a comprehensive fact sheet here.