How to Choose The Best Calcium Supplements
Our modern diet often fails to supply us with adequate amounts of nutrients among which calcium is one of them. An inadequate supply of calcium to our body can result in weakening of the bones in the long run. Calcium supplements are advised to be taken on a regular basis especially in cases of individuals with osteopenia or osteoporosis, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, mothers who breastfeed multiple infants, vegans, and amenorrheic women. Calcium is also considered necessary for the prevention and treatment of hypertension, and, possibly, colon cancer. 1-4 To learn more about calcium deficieny related disease, please click here.
Various forms of calcium supplements are calcium available to the consumer. These supplements are commonly available in the form of capsules, tablets, chews, wafers, powders, and liquids. 1 The calcium in a compound is known as elemental calcium and it is this form which ultimately becomes available to be absorbed into the blood. 3 The different forms of calcium supplements available and their pros and cons are discussed below.
Types of Calcium Supplements Available
Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Citrate
The studies on calcium carbonate and calcium citrate revealed that the absorption rate of both were identical when taken with a meal. However, differences existed in the amount of elemental calcium is about 40% in calcium carbonate while calcium citrate supplement only contains about 21%. Calcium carbonate is known to be well-absorbed and tolerated in most of the individuals when taken with a meal.
As calcium carbonate supplements provide greater amounts of elemental calcium one requires taking fewer tablets than other forms of calcium. However, in case of calcium citrate supplements, the amount of tablets or capsules to be taken to make the dose equivalent to that of calcium carbonate is more.
Calcium carbonate is the cheapest and easily available form of calcium. It requires an acidic environment in the stomach for its better absorption. Hence, individuals suffering from conditions such as achlorhydria (reduced formation of stomach acids) or individuals who are consuming medications to reduce stomach acidity should take calcium citrate supplements. If you are a busy individual who finds it difficult to take supplements at meal time then you should use calcium citrate, which can be taken with or without food. 1, 5, 6
Coral calcium was being supplied as a type of calcium supplement until recently. However, now it is known that coral calcium is nothing other than calcium carbonate. 1, 6
Calcium Lactate and Calcium Gluconate
Other two forms of calcium supplements available are calcium lactate and calcium gluconate. These are much lesser concentrated forms of calcium which contain very little amount of elemental calcium. Calcium lactate contains about 13% elemental calcium while calcium gluconate contains only 9%. Because of this, the number of tablets to be consumed to attain the desirable dose is high compared to other supplements. 1, 3, 5
Calcium from Bone Meal
Calcium supplementation from bone meal which was quite famous initially has now fallen out of favour as it was found to be contaminated with poisonous substances such as lead, arsenic, mercury, and cadmium. 1, 2
Hydroxyapatite was also being used as a form of calcium supplementation. However, further amount of research is required to know its potential and its safety. 1
1. Straub DA. Calcium supplementation in clinical practice: a review of forms, doses, and indications. Nutr Clin Pract. 2007;22(3):286-96.
2. Murray TM. Calcium nutriton and osteoporosis. Can Med Assoc J. 1996; 155 (7) 935-39
3. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. Calcium Supplement Guidelines. Available from: http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/health/az1042.pdf
4. Whiting SJ, Wood R, Kim K. Calcium supplementation. J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 1997;9(4):187-92.
5. Reinwald S, Weaver CM, Kester JJ. The health benefits of calcium citrate malate: a review of the supporting science. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2008;54:219-346.
6. Levenson DI, Bockman RS. A review of calcium preparations. Nutr Rev. 1994;52(7):221-32.
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