It has been speculated that calcium supplement in subjects with low oxalate intake might increase the risk of calcium stone formation due to an increase in calcium absorption without a significant reduction in oxalate absorption. There have been no human studies addressing specifically the effects of taking calcium supplements in populations whose dietary oxalate is low. This study was conducted to determine the effects of calcium supplements on the risk of calcium stone formation in a population with low oxalate intake. Thirty-two healthy male navy privates, 22.7 +/- 1.9 (mean +/- SD) years old, who had oxalate intake of less than 1 mmol/day, a serum creatinine of less than 150 micromol/l, and no history of renal stones, participated in the study. Dietary oxalate was controlled to be under 1 mmol/day throughout the study. Twenty-four hour urine collections for the determination of urinary constituents were obtained at baseline and after taking calcium supplements. Detection of calcium oxalate was performed to assess the risk of calcium oxalate stone formation. The urinary excretion of calcium was significantly elevated above baseline values while taking the calcium supplements (3.48 +/- 2.13 vs 5.17 +/- 2.61 mmol/d, p < 0.05) and urinary oxalate was significantly decreased when the subjects took calcium supplements compared to the corresponding baseline value (0.13 +/- 0.05 vs 0.17 +/- 0.07 mmol/d, p = 0.01). Urinary citrate was significantly elevated when the subjects took calcium supplements compared to the baseline (0.83 +/- 0.57 vs 0.64 +/- 0.39 mmol/d, p = 0.03). There was no significant alteration in the activity products of calcium oxalate while taking the calcium supplements (0.54 +/- 0.25 vs 0.57 +/- 0.22, p = 0.54). The effect of calcium supplements with meals, for the reduction of the risk of calcium stone formation, was unchanged, even in a population whose oxalate intake is rather low. Taking calcium supplements resulted in a reduction in urinary oxalates and an elevation in urinary citrates. Both alterations in urinary constituents counterbalanced the elevation in urinary calcium which resulted from the calcium supplements.