The Quick, Helpful Guide to Calcium & Bone Health

There are lots of dietary supplements on the market — a regular alphabet soup from A to Zinc.

It is important to remember when choosing a dietary supplement to looks for the “USP Verified” seal of approval. Seeing the USP Verified Mark on a dietary supplement label indicates the product:

  • Contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared strength and amounts
  • Does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants (e.g., lead and mercury or pesticides, etc.)
  • Has been made according to FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices using sanitary and well-controlled procedures 

When thinking about bone health, a couple of supplements you might hear about are calcium and vitamin D. How do they fit into your nutritional needs? Here’s some guidance that will help you decide how they fit for you.

 

Sorting Through the Calcium Products

You have a lot of options. Calcium carbonate contains the highest percentage of calcium, so it yields more calcium per pill.

Try calcium citrate if you have constipation or bloating from your current calcium supplement, or if you take medication for stomach acid (such as omeprazole or other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – not sure if you’re taking one of these? Ask a pharmacist). Calcium citrate is less potent and a little more expensive, but it works better for people with reduced stomach acid.

Calcium comes in chewable, tablet, gummy and liquid-capsule. Feel free to choose the form you prefer.

 

How Much Calcium Do I Need and Am I Getting Enough

The amount of calcium you need each day depends on your age. Keep in mind, dietary supplement aren’t the only sources of calcium. The best source of calcium is always food. However, many people don’t get recommended amounts of calcium from the foods they eat. Those at risk include:

  • Boys aged 9 to 13 years
  • Girls aged 9 to 18 years
  • Women older than 50 years
  • Men older than 70 years

Ask your health care provider or pharmacist for the recommended calcium intake for your age and gender.

It’s also important not to take more than 500 mg of calcium at one time. This is the most your body can absorb. A person who takes 1,000 mg per day of calcium from supplements should split the dose rather than taking it all at once.

 

Don’t Take Too Much Calcium

Regularly taking more calcium than your body needs may also be associated with problems. Very high doses of calcium (over 2,500 mg per day) can be toxic.

Excess calcium can actually discourage your body from storing calcium in your bones. Some studies suggest that calcium supplements can lead to hardening of the arteries, heart attack or stroke.

 

Taking Vitamin D with Calcium

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin D also plays a role in building bone. The recommended level of vitamin D in your diet may reduce your risk of falls. Many calcium supplements contain vitamin D. But if you’re already taking at least 1,000 mg of vitamin D daily, you do not need to take additional vitamin D with your calcium doses.

 

Prescription Osteoporosis Drugs and Calcium

Calcium is essential to healthy bones, but adequate calcium intake itself has not been proven to reduce fracture risk. If you have osteoporosis, your health care provider may prescribe a medication to reduce your chances of fractures. You should continue to ingest enough calcium while being treated for osteoporosis, because your body cannot build bones without calcium.

Currently medical professionals recommended that osteoporosis drugs be used for 5-10 years for maximum benefits, then prescription treatment can be stopped for the next 3-5 years or more — if your bone density remains good. Longer treatment may cause side effects to the jaw, stomach or kidneys, while not reducing your fracture risk further.

 

Visit with your health care provider or pharmacist about what’s right for you. An Aurora Pharmacy carries calcium supplements and a full assortment of other vitamins.

Have other questions about vitamins or medications? Ask an Aurora pharmacist. You can find at an Aurora pharmacy location online. The friendly staff is always happy to help you.

Meet the Author

Brittany Jensen, PharmD is a pharmacist at Aurora Cancer Care in South Eastern Wisconsin.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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