Myths about Calcium Supplements: Which one is Best

by Garreth Myers


Calcium is essential for the bones and teeth. In addition it also plays an important role in blood clotting, conducting of nerve impulses, stimulating the release of hormones and regulating heart beat. The body also loses calcium through the hair, nails, skin and sweat. Calcium can be obtained from food sources such as soybeans, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. Milk and dairy products are also valuable sources of calcium. However some people may find it difficult to obtain the daily requirement of calcium through their diet alone and may need to take calcium supplements.

The recommended calcium intake for adults is 1000 to 1300 mg depending on the gender and age. People who do not consume enough of foods containing calcium may need to take supplements to meet the daily requirement. There are many different types of calcium supplements. An important point to remember while selecting calcium supplements is to determine the content of elemental calcium. A pill that contains 500 mg of calcium carbonate will provide 200 mg of elemental calcium. Therefore only 200 mg of calcium will be obtained from one such pill, and not 500 mg. Also, not all of the consumed calcium is absorbed by the body. Many factors determine the amount of calcium that is absorbed. The calcium is absorbed in the small intestines and factors such as acidic level of the intestines, the content of vitamin D, estrogen levels and the type of calcium supplements will influence the absorption of the calcium.

One of the factors that affect the absorption of calcium is the manner in which the pill dissolves. Calcium is absorbed well in an acidic environment. The supplemental form of calcium that is absorbed the best is calcium citrate. However, calcium citrate supplies a smaller amount of elemental calcium and it may be necessary to take more than one pill daily. Most of the calcium supplements available today are calcium carbonate pills. These need more stomach acid for proper absorption and hence must be taken after eating. Naturally occurring calcium supplements such as oyster shell or bone meal may contain lead or metal. These pills are also not tested for lead content and hence it is best to avoid taking them. Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate are types of supplements that contain low levels of elemental calcium. These may therefore have to be taken in larger amounts to fulfill the calcium requirements. It is advisable to consult a doctor before taking any type of nutritional supplements.


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