Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the body. It is responsible for strong and healthy bones, muscle movements, hormone secretion, nerve function and many other functions. However, our body cannot produce calcium, so it must come from food sources or supplements. Calcium supplements provide a convenient and effective way to obtain sufficient calcium for our body. In this article, we will delve deeper into calcium supplements, their benefits, risks and how to choose the right one.
Why Calcium is Important?
Calcium is a building block of bones, and it constantly gets absorbed and replaced by the body. Hence adequate calcium intake is essential, particularly in childhood and teenage years when bones are developing. Calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by thinning, brittle bones that are prone to fractures. Moreover, calcium is also required for proper muscle and nerve function and helps regulate blood pressure levels.
Dairy products are the best-known sources of calcium. However, some people do not consume dairy or are lactose intolerant, so they may need to look for alternative calcium sources. Some other calcium-rich foods include:
- Leafy green vegetables such as bok choy, kale, collards etc.
- Seafood, particularly fish like sardines and salmon
- Nuts and seeds such as almonds, sesame seeds
- Tofu and soybean products
Calcium supplements come in various forms, including tablets, chewable gummies, liquids and powders. Each supplement has a different amount of elemental calcium, which refers to the actual amount of calcium available for absorption.
Calcium Carbonate Supplements
Calcium carbonate is one of the most commonly used calcium supplements. It contains around 40% elemental calcium and is an economical option. However, it requires adequate stomach acid for absorption, and hence people taking acid-reducing medications may have issues with calcium carbonate absorption.
Calcium Citrate Supplements
Calcium citrate has a higher bioavailability compared to calcium carbonate and can be taken without food. It contains around 21% elemental calcium and is well-tolerated by people with acid reflux.
Other Forms of Calcium Supplements
Other forms of calcium supplements include calcium gluconate, lactate, and phosphate. These contain lesser elemental calcium and are less commonly used.
Benefits of Calcium Supplements
Calcium supplements offer numerous added benefits to the body, including:
- Preventing osteoporosis and improving bone density
- Reducing the risk of fractures
- Reducing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
- Lowering the risk of kidney stones
- Helping with weight loss
- Reducing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases
Risks of Calcium Supplements
Although calcium supplements are generally considered safe, overconsumption can lead to some adverse effects, including:
- Gas and bloating
- Stomach upset
- Interference with the absorption of iron and zinc
- Kidney stones, particularly in people with a history of kidney disease
- Higher risk of heart diseases and strokes in people taking high doses of calcium supplements
Choosing the Right Calcium Supplement
Choosing the right calcium supplement depends on the individual’s calcium needs, dietary requirements, convenience and lifestyle. Here are some tips:
- Look for supplements containing 500-600mg of elemental calcium.
- Read the labels carefully and ensure adequate absorption.
- Choose calcium citrate if you have digestive issues or take acid-reducing medications.
- Spread out calcium intake throughout the day for better absorption.
- Talk to your doctor if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications.
1. Can calcium supplements treat osteoporosis?
Calcium supplements can help prevent the progression of osteoporosis and improve bone density. However, they cannot cure the condition.
2. Are calcium supplements safe during pregnancy?
Calcium supplements are safe to take during pregnancy and help support the developing fetus’s bone health.
3. Can calcium supplements cause kidney stones?
Overconsumption of calcium supplements can increase the risk of kidney stones in people with a history of kidney disease.
4. Should I take calcium supplements with food?
Calcium carbonate supplements need to be taken with food as the stomach acid helps calcium absorption. However, calcium citrate supplements can be taken with or without food.
5. Can magnesium interfere with calcium absorption?
No, magnesium promotes calcium absorption and should be taken together with calcium supplements.
6. Can I take calcium supplements with other medications?
Some medications like antibiotics, thyroid medication and blood pressure medications can interfere with calcium absorption. Talk to your doctor before taking calcium supplements if you are on any medication.
7. Can calcium supplements cause constipation?
Yes, overconsumption of calcium supplements can cause constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It is essential to take calcium supplements as per the recommended dosage.
8. Can calcium supplements interfere with cholesterol-lowering medication?
Calcium supplements have not shown to interfere with cholesterol-lowering medication.
9. How long should I take calcium supplements?
The duration of calcium supplements depends on an individual’s calcium needs. Consult with your doctor for an appropriate course of supplements.
10. Do I still need calcium supplements if I consume calcium-rich foods regularly?
If you have a calcium-rich diet and meet your daily calcium requirements, you may not need supplements. However, people with calcium deficiency, digestive issues or those who do not consume dairy may need supplementation.
Calcium is an essential mineral for maintaining bone health, muscle function and overall body health. Calcium supplements are a convenient and effective way to obtain sufficient calcium for the body. However, overconsumption may lead to adverse effects, and it is essential to follow the recommended dosage and talk to your doctor if you have any underlying conditions or are taking any medications.