Calcium Supplements: Review The Benefits!
The mineral calcium is by far the most abundant mineral in the human body. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is found in bones, while the remaining 1% flows through the bloodstream.
The calcium in bone serves two purposes. First, it is essential to bone structure, helping to keep the skeleton rigid and strong. Calcium in bone is also held in reserve for body fluids. If the level of calcium in the blood drops too low, calcium from bone is released into the bloodstream.
Since bone density peaks at about age 30, getting enough calcium early in life is crucial to prevent the development of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to fracture easily.
But even after bone density begins to deteriorate (usually before age 40), adequate calcium intake is essential. The best sources of calcium per calorie are dairy products, small fish with bones, tofu and greens like broccoli and chard. In cases where calcium intake is insufficient calcium supplements are highly recommended.
Women especially are advised to take supplemental calcium to prevent the development of osteoporosis.
Calcium supplements may have other benefits as well. Since it strengthens bone and cartilage, calcium may help alleviate back pain. Also, calcium contributes to keeping teeth healthy and preventing tooth decay. It can also keep teeth from turning yellow. Calcium carbonate is often used in antacid tablets to reduce heartburn, and calcium is also known to help reduce blood pressure by relaxing arterial muscles. In addition, as a muscle relaxant with a calming effect, calcium may promote restful sleep.
People at risk for calcium deficiency may be advised to take calcium supplements. For example, post-menopausal women often experience rapid bone loss in the first years after menopause because of decreased calcium absorption. Taking extra calcium in supplement form rather than increasing caloric intake may be useful for women in this category.
Calcium supplements can also decrease the need for estrogen replacement therapy, which is often prescribed to protect against rapid bone loss in the absence of estrogen.
Strict vegetarians who do not consume dairy products may also be at risk for calcium deficiency, as are people who are lactose intolerant and not able to consume enough dairy products to meet the body’s daily requirement for calcium.
There are a variety of calcium supplements available, with calcium citrate generally considered the best and most absorbable.
Calcium carbonate is also highly absorbable, but this form of calcium usually needs to be taken with food. Calcium gluconate and calcium lactate contain lower concentrations of elemental calcium, making it necessary to take larger doses of supplements that contain calcium in these forms.
Other forms of calcium, such as calcium derived from oyster shells, bone meal or dolomite may be less beneficial due to the potential for lead contamination from these products.
Calcium can be safely tolerated in amounts of up to 2500 mg per day and should not be taken in doses higher than that. The recommended daily requirement for adults is 1000 -1200 mg per day from food and supplements combined. Taking excess calcium intake should be avoided, as it can interfere with the absorption and function of other essential minerals.