What is Calcium?
Calcium is an essential mineral and is well-known as a primary factor in the prevention of osteoporosis, the common degenerative bone condition characterized by brittle and porous bone, stooped-over posture, and increased risk of fracture. Throughout life, calcium helps preserve the structure of bones and teeth, but calcium is also necessary for functions as diverse as proper muscle, nerve, and heart function, blood clotting, energy production and immunity.
The most abundant mineral in the body, calcium also happens to be one of the most abundant minerals in the diet relative to other minerals like magnesium and chromium. Milk products, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli and tofu are all good sources. There are also many calcium-fortified food products available, such as orange juice and soy milk. But while we can get some calcium from the diet, most diets supply less than half our nutritional requirement of 1000-1500 mg per day. Because osteoporosis is so common, calcium supplements either are important or will become important to many people to preserve and protect bone density and health. Poor calcium intake or absorption are likely to play a major role in the development of osteoporosis, along with lifestyle factors like weight-bearing exercise. The efficiency of calcium absorption declines over a lifespan after peaking around age 30. Nutritional factors that affect the absorption and excretion of calcium include protein, and sodium intake.
What are the Benefits of Calcium Supplements?
Calcium supplements ensure that sufficient calcium is available to the body, when diets don't provide optimal amounts and/or when absorption of calcium from food is impaired. Studies show that increasing calcium intake is not only helpful in the prevention of osteoporosis, but is also crucial for those who have developed the disease by minimizing further bone loss. Calcium may have other benefits unrelated to bone health as suggested by studies involving obese individuals and dietary intake. But since calcium is an essential mineral anyway, since most diets don't provide enough, and since calcium supplements are so affordable and safe, they're a logical investment by anyone, especially those trying to lose weight.
Choosing a Calcium Supplement
Several different forms of calcium are used in supplements. For general health, to help meet calcium intake targets and promote bone health, any of the following forms of calcium will work well: Calcium citrate, calcium carbonate (also known as oyster shell calcium and coral calcium), calcium bis-glycinate and microcrystallinehydroxyapatite or MHCH. Calcium absorption is maximized when supplements are taken in divided doses with solid food, with no more than 500 mg of elemental calcium per dose. Magnesium and vitamin D are critical co-factors for utilization of calcium, which is why most calcium and bone formulas include them.
Some supplements that include calcium are not intended to be used as calcium supplements. These include calcium D-glucarate, calcium ascorbate and calcium pyruvate.
Recommended Daily Doses for Women and Men
|200 IU; 5 mcg
|400 IU; 10 mcg
|600 IU; 15 mcg
Calcium needs for post-menopausal women may be as high as 1500 mg daily. Consult your physician for specific guidelines.
Calcium's Side-effects and Cautions:
Calcium carbonate may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort in some people. Pregnant and lactating women may have different calcium needs and should consult their ob/gyn for guidelines. Consult your physician before consuming any calcium supplement if you are currently using any medications.
About coral calcium: Despite claims that coral calcium can cure diseases or radically improve health, the calcium in coral calcium is calcium carbonate, which has been a commonly-used type of calcium in supplements for decades. Calcium carbonate occurs widely in nature and can be found in egg shells, oyster shells, coral and limestone (fossilized coral and plankton). Coral calcium may have the same positive attributes as calcium carbonate derived from these other sources, but it's by no means a miracle cure or quick answer to any health problem.