How Do You Choose a Calcium Supplement?

Posted on November 16, 2015

Calcium is one of the most important minerals our body needs. Although your body can get enough calcium from dietary sources, many people need a calcium supplement to ensure they get enough. Discussing your calcium needs with an osteoporosis doctor can help you choose a supplement that’s right for you.iStock_000012285648_Small_1.jpg

Importance of Getting Enough Calcium

Calcium lends strength to bone tissue. However, it is also important for keeping other body systems functioning properly. Calcium promotes blood clotting, helps muscles contract and facilitates the transmission of signals between neurons.

Daily Recommendations for Calcium Intake

Your daily calcium needs depend on your sex and age. Women younger than age 50 and men younger than 70 should aim for 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Post-menopausal women need more, with women older than 51 years of age needing 1,200 mg daily. Similarly, older men (71+) should try to get 1,200 mg per day.

Daily calcium intake may come from a mixture of foods and supplements. Leafy greens, dairy products and fish are good sources of dietary calcium.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Calcium Supplement

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a calcium supplement. Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • Bioavailability. Calcium must be absorbed to be effective. Your body absorbs calcium best when it is taken in smaller doses (no more than 500 mg) or with a meal. For people with low stomach acid or absorption problems, a supplement containing calcium citrate is absorbed well even on an empty stomach.
  • Form of supplement. Chewable or liquid calcium supplements are great for people who have difficulty swallowing pills. Avoid supplements that contain magnesium stearate.
  • Form of calcium. Different compounds have different levels of elemental calcium and bioavailability. Calcium carbonate has a high concentration of calcium, but relatively poor bioavailability. In contrast, calcium citrate is better absorbed. Avoid oyster shell calcium, which may contain lead toxins.
  • Quality. Labels with the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Verified Mark have been tested for quality and purity. Check for labels that say “purified” to get the best quality supplement.
  • Prescription interactions. Calcium supplements may not be appropriate for people taking blood pressure medications, synthetic thyroid hormone, antibiotics or other medications. Check with your doctor before starting a new supplement to be safe.

When choosing a calcium supplement, it’s best to consult your doctor to determine which one is right for you. Your Long Island orthopedic specialist can help you decide on a proper supplement dosage to optimize your health.

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