Use of supplemental calcium has increased greatly in recent years, yet Americans still may not be getting enough of this mineral.

Both conclusions were drawn from data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The CDC recently noted that among women aged 60 years and older, the use of supplemental calcium increased from 28% during the 1988-1994 survey period to 61% during 2003-2006.

In a separate study investigators charge that although supplemental calcium use and calcium density were highest in older age groups, they were not sufficient in meeting recommended levels.

According to an analysis of data from 9,475 adults responding to NHANES during 2003-2006, median dietary calcium intake was 23% lower in men aged 81 years and older and 14% lower in women aged 81 years and older compared with the 19-to-30-year-old age group. Although calcium density in the diet significantly increased with age in men and women, after age 50 years ratios of dietary and total calcium to energy did not meet target ratios suggested by adequate intake standards.

“New approaches to increasing the frequency and level of calcium supplement use to enhance calcium density in diets may be necessary to reduce osteoporosis risk among older Americans,” the researchers wrote.

But practitioners should be cautious when prescribing calcium supplementation. An analysis of data from the Women’s Health Initiative found that calcium supplementation modestly heightened women’s risk for cardiovascular events, particularly heart attack.

Bolland MJ et al. BMJ. 2011; 342: d2040.

Mangano KM et al. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:687-695.