Beginners Guide to Calcium Supplements
Calcium makes up 3% of the earth and is the fifth most abundant metal. As with most elements the earth contains we as humans need some of it too. Here we have some questions and answers on this essential nutrient.
Why is calcium important?
Calcium plays a critical role in the formation and maintenance of our teeth and bones and is needed continuously throughout our lifetime. The body can't make calcium for itself so the supply must come from our diet.
Apart from the skeletal benefits calcium intake has also been proven to help control blood pressure, aid sleep and help the function of the digestive tract.
How much calcium do we need?
The following is a guide for calcium levels within the general population per day:
Higher levels are especially recommended for those at risk or have a family history of osteoporosis or other bone diseases.
What are the best sources of calcium in our diet?
Calcium is mainly found in dairy products and less so in vegetables and other grown foods as the following table shows:
Also look out for calcium fortified foods like cereals and breads which can often contain as much as 3-400mg per serving.
Is is possible to take too much?
There is a recommended upper limit of 2.5g. Symptoms of excessive calcium include constipation, kidney stones and an increase risk of cardiovascular disease. The reason problems can occur is because the body finds it difficult to store excess calcium. This is because it's a metal and not a fat soluble vitamin, these problems are rare and easily avoided if calcium intake is monitored.
What kind of calcium supplement should I buy?
When buying a calcium supplement it is important to know how much calcium is going toward your R.D.A.. Calcium sold today comes mainly in 2 forms:
Calcium citrate contains 21% of actual calcium content toward your recommended daily allowance. So a supplement that contains 1,000mg of calcium citrate has 210mg towards your daily calcium intake.
Calcium carbonate is higher at 40%. A supplement containing 1,00mg of calcium carbonate has 400mg toward your daily calcium intake.
Most supplements sold today are calcium carbonate and specify the elemental calcium content, however it's always worth checking. A best buy is a supplement that contains vitamin D as well as this helps the absorption of calcium in the gut.
Studies have shown that the typical western diet contains too little calcium so if you're at risk, or one of the at need groups (pregnancy, elderly), it is important to monitor you're intake. If you're not getting enough then supplementation is a safe, healthy way to ensure this nutrient plays its vital role in your body.