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Facts You Should Know About Calcium Supplements


Calcium is a mineral that is an important component of the human diet for building strong bones and teeth, and also for regulating certain body processes. If you are concerned about getting enough calcium in your diet, health experts recommend taking a calcium supplement. However, the array of choices can be confusing. Here are some facts about calcium supplements to help you decide which one is right for you:

Why Calcium Is Important

Calcium is necessary for cell replacement in bones and teeth. It is also a critical compound for the heart, muscles and nerves. Without sufficient calcium, children can develop growth problems. Adults can develop osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones that leaves the individual vulnerable to fractures. Certain individuals may require more calcium, such as those who eat large amount of protein that causes calcium excretion, lactose intolerant individuals who cannot consume dairy products, individuals with bowel disorders that prevent proper calcium absorption, and patients who must take corticosteroid medications for long periods of treatment. Individuals who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, may also be advised to take calcium supplements.

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium carbonate is often the cheapest and most widely available type of calcium supplement. The carbonate form usually contains about 40 percent of elemental calcium along with other filler compounds. The elemental calcium is the part that is absorbed for bone health and other body processes, so the higher the amount, the greater the benefit. However, calcium carbonate can be the most constipating type of calcium supplement, which can be a problem for some people.

Calcium Citrate

Calcium citrate contains less elemental calcium, about 21 percent. It is more expensive than the carbonate form. The citrate form, thought to be less disruptive to the digestive system, causes less gas and bloating than carbonate and may be preferable for individuals with bowel problems. Calcium citrate is absorbed into the bloodstream equally as well as calcium carbonate.

Other Calcium Types

Calcium gluconate and calcium lactate are other types of calcium you may find, but these are less widely available and contain less elemental calcium than the carbonate and citrate forms.

Calcium with Vitamins or Minerals

Consumers will find calcium supplements than contain a number of additional vitamins or minerals. Taking vitamin D with calcium helps to aid in absorption of the mineral. Calcium with magnesium is also available, but it may cause some people to have gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea.

Choosing the Right Calcium For You

Calcium can interact with medications that you are taking. Talk to your physician about taking a supplement and follow his advice on the choice of form. The carbonate form offers the most bang for the buck, but some people may have trouble tolerating its side effects. For older people with less stomach acid, the citrate form provides easier absorption.

How Much Calcium Should You Take?

The body can only absorb about 500 milligrams of calcium at a time. In some cases, taking the supplement with food provides fewest side effects. Adults should only take 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Any more than that does not provide any additional benefits.

Finding the right calcium supplement can be a matter of trial-and-error to find the one that is best tolerated. When experimenting with calcium supplements, to avoid wasting money, first purchase a small amount until you know the product is right for your needs.