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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. It is found in milk and dairy products, leafy green vegetables and soybeans. 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 critical correct functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves. Insufficient calcium can seriously affect the growth of children. With adults osteoporosis can develop as a result of an inadequate supply of calcium to the body. Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that leaves the individual vulnerable to fractures. Certain individuals may also require more calcium than normal, such as those who eat large amounts 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 that 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. It is abundant in nature as chalk or limestone. In its pure form, calcium carbonate contains about 40 percent by weight of elemental calcium (the other elements are carbon and oxygen). The elemental calcium is that which 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 – but is more expensive than the carbonate form. Calcium citrate, 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 diarrhoea, as magnesium compounds, such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts), act as a laxative.

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 is usually the least costly form, 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. It is recommended that adults should limit their intake to 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Any more than that does not provide any additional benefits.

Finding the right calcium supplement that is best tolerated by an individual, can be a matter of trial-and-error. As with any supplement, keep costs down by purchasing a small amount first until you have established what is best for your needs.

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