How to take calcium supplements
Tips for a healthy lifestyle and nutrition, and healthy foods
When should I take calcium supplements? Does the moment matter?
Yes, time matters. Three factors determine when you should take calcium supplements:
Calcium type. Check the label to find out what calcium the supplement contains. Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food. Stomach acid produced by eating helps absorb calcium carbonate.
Total daily dose. Calcium is better absorbed when taken in smaller quantities (usually less than 600 milligrams at a time). For example, if you take 1,000 mg of calcium daily, divide it into two or more daily doses.
Medications and supplements. Calcium supplements can interact with many prescription medications, including antibiotics, bisphosphonates, and high blood pressure medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions between calcium supplements and your medications.
Taking calcium supplements at a different time than taking a multivitamin or an iron-rich meal is also a good idea. This is because calcium can affect how the body absorbs iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidance if you're still unsure about the best time to take calcium supplements.
Calcium and vitamin D: Important at all ages
The foods we eat contain various vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients that help keep our bodies healthy. Two nutrients, in particular, are needed for strong bones: calcium and vitamin D.
The importance of calcium
Calcium is essential for the heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly and for blood clotting. Taking calcium prevents the development of osteoporosis. Many studies have indicated that inadequate calcium intake is associated with decreased bone density and a high rate of fractures. National nutrition surveys reveal that most people don't get enough calcium for their bones to grow and stay healthy. Refer to the chart below titled “Daily Requirement for Calcium Intake” to see how much calcium you need.
Although a balanced diet helps absorb calcium, it is thought that increased levels of protein and sodium (salt) in the diet cause the kidneys to excrete more calcium. For this reason, excessive intake of these substances should be avoided, especially in those who consume little calcium.
Lactose intolerance can result in inadequate calcium intake. If you are lactose-intolerant, you can: eat dairy products in small amounts, add lactase drops to them, or take lactase in pill form. Some dairy products on the market have already been added to them.
If you find it difficult to get calcium in your diet, you may need to take a calcium supplement. The amount of calcium you need depends on how much calcium you get from your food. There are multiple calcium compounds on the market, such as calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. All commonly used calcium supplements are well absorbed when taken with food. One type of calcium is better absorbed when consumed without food and on an empty stomach, amorphous calcium carbonate.
Calcium supplements are best absorbed when taken in small doses (500 mg or less) several times a day. Many people absorb them better when they are taken with food. Therefore, it is essential to carefully read the labels of calcium supplements to verify that the product meets the standards established by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, we can't make enough of the hormone calcitriol (known as "active vitamin D"), causing not enough calcium to be absorbed from food. When this occurs, the body is forced to mobilize calcium stores from the skeleton, which weakens existing bone and prevents the formation and strengthening of new solid bone.
You can get vitamin D in three ways: when your skin is exposed to sunlight, by eating certain foods, and through supplements. Vitamin D is produced naturally in the body after exposure to sunlight. Experts recommend a daily intake of 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D for people up to 70 years of age. Men and women over 70 should increase their daily vitamin D intake to 800 IU, which can also be obtained from supplements or foods rich in vitamin D, such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults take no more than 4,000 IU daily. However, doctors may prescribe a higher dose in some cases where this vitamin is deficient.
A complete plan against osteoporosis
Remember that a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is only part of the plan for the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis. Like physical exercise, sufficient calcium intake is a measure that helps strengthen bones at any age. But these steps may not be enough to stop bone loss caused by lifestyle, taking certain medications, and menopause. Your doctor can determine if, in addition to a proper diet and exercise program, you need medication to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.