My good friend Katy asked me to take a look at calcium, a mineral that a lot of women are probably interested in. Katy was interested in these questions:
- What’s the best type of calcium?
- How much calcium do I need?
- How much calcium can we absorb?
What’s the best type of calcium?
Many women are interested in calcium because it helps build bone and offsets bone loss (which starts in the 40s). Of the different types of calcium to choose from, the best types are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. The reason has to do with how much elemental calcium each has. Elemental calcium is the actual amount of calcium that the calcium supplement has. Calcium carbonate is 40% elemental calcium. So a 500 mg calcium carbonate supplement has 200 mg of usable elemental calcium.
Calcium citrate is about 21% elemental calcium. While this is less than calcium carbonate, the advantage here is that calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach. This makes calcium citrate ideal for people – including older adults – who may not make enough stomach acid to break down the supplement. The downside of calcium citrate is that one would have to take more calcium to reach their goals.
How much calcium do I need?
Research suggests that about 1000 to 1600 mg a day of elemental calcium can help. That this calcium should be taken in several separate doses to enhance absorption.
How much calcium can we absorb?
A lot of people (Katy too!) have wondered if we can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at once. This is actually true – in fact Id suggest taking it in amounts of less than 500 mg because its easy to eat more than we can absorb. Calcium is also absorbed better still when its combined with vitamin D.
Things that can inhibit the absorption of calcium include caffeine, fiber and sodium. Separating calcium supplements from intake of these will likely increase calcium absorption.
It’s important to remember that no matter what type of calcium supplement you use, keep in mind that the research also shows that people who eat calcium-rich foods tend to have stronger bones than those who take calcium supplements. That’s a fact that’s often overlooked in calcium commercials.
Thanks Katy for giving me the chance to address this!