Calcium supplements: The best way to protect your bone health?

Calcium is a nutrient that is essential for strong bones and for supporting your body’s critical functions such as controlling your blood pressure and maintaining your heart beat. Ninety-nine percent of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones and teeth. This calcium makes up your bone bank. Throughout your lifetime, calcium is deposited in and withdrawn from your bone bank depending on your needs. When your dietary calcium intake is too low, your body will withdraw the calcium it needs from your bones. Over time, if more calcium is taken out of your bones than is put in, the result may be thin, weak bones that may break more easily.


The preferred way to get adequate calcium is through a healthy, well-balanced diet but new research suggests that taking calcium supplements could reduce the risk of people aged over 50 from suffering fractures and osteoporosis.




Are you getting enough calcium from your diet?


Everybody assumes that dairy products are going to be the best source of calcium.  But there are some really good non-dairy sources including sardines, other tinned fish where you eat the bones like tinned salmon, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, soy beans and figs. 

Bear in mind that smoking, caffeine consumption, drinking alcohol, heavy protein consumption, exposure to toxic metals, and eating processed junk foods will all increase your need for calcium.


Should you take a supplement?

If you are over the age of 45 I would suggest that you take a good ‘bone’ supplement that contains not only calcium but also magnesium, boron and vitamin D.


Unfortunately, one of the cheapest forms of calcium is calcium carbonate, which is otherwise known as chalk.  It may be cheap, but it is one of the most difficult forms of calcium to absorb, and you need a highly efficient digestive system to order to manage it.  As we get older, our digestive efficiency diminishes (how many people in their 60s do you know who can eat an evening meal after 8pm and still sleep soundly?).  If you have low levels of stomach acid, as many women over 40 do, you may struggle to absorb the calcium from a calcium carbonate supplement.  It is estimated that 40% of postmenopausal women can be deficient in stomach acid and if your levels are low you might be absorbing as little as 4% of the calcium from your calcium supplement.


However, even with poor digestion, you should still be able to absorb 45% of the calcium from a calcium citrate supplement.  This is because calcium citrate is almost 30% more absorbable than calcium carbonate.  So, if you are taking a calcium carbonate supplement your dose should be higher than a calcium citrate dose, to ensure you really are absorbing enough calcium. 


One common calcium supplement is calcium hydroxyapatite, which has been shown to have only 20% absorption, and is basically bone meal. Try to avoid supplements containing bone meal, oyster shell or dolomite as they can contain high levels of heavy toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury or cadmium.

(The ‘bone’ supplement I use in the clinic is called Osteo Plus which contains calcium as citrate, magnesium, boron, vitamin D3 and the added benefit of digestive enzymes for maximum absorption, see the Resources Page).

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