WHAT IS CALCIUM AND WHY MIGHT I NEED MORE?
Calcium is an essential mineral that your body needs every day. Calcium plays a number of important roles in the body and if deficient, can cause numerous health issues. First, calcium is the major constituent of bones and teeth. Over 98% of body calcium resides in those structures. In the rest of the body calcium supports heart function, circulation, nerve function and muscle tone.
If insufficient calcium results from a poor dietary intake of this nutrient, the body can "rob" calcium from the bones to make up the shortage. When this happens, low peak bone mass can result which is a low amount of bone mass present at maturity. Low peak bone mass can be a contributing factor to the development of a potentially crippling disease of weak, thin and fragile bones called osteoporosis. In excess of 25 million people in the United States have this disease which is a multifactorial disease, also affected by race, sex, heredity, body stature, diet, exercise level, and life style. Excess alcohol consumption and smoking are also considered risk factors in osteoporosis.
Building and maintaining good bone health through adequate calcium intake throughout life is linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis by optimizing bone mass.
Calcium intake exceeding 200% of the recommended daily intake (2000 mg.) has no further known benefit.
AT WHAT AGE IS CALCIUM INTAKE IMPORTANT?
Very simply, at all ages. Calcium is important to infant development, childhood development when bones are growing, during childbearing and during adulthood to keep bones healthy and strong.
CAN'T I GET ENOUGH CALCIUM FROM MY DIET?
Infant formulas and some baby foods are rich in calcium as is mother's milk, so babies and infants probably get enough. Once off of those sources, getting enough calcium becomes more difficult. It is generally recognized by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, that from ages four through adulthood, calcium Dietary Reference Intakes optimum for good health range from 800 mg. daily to 1200 mg. daily. To get that from the diet requires an individual to get two to three servings of dairy products per day plus several servings of protein, vegetables, grains and fruits. This is difficult for many people.
Many individuals are sensitive to dairy products, casein, lactose, or other dairy proteins. These individuals find it very challanging to obtain enough dietary calcium.
WHAT AFFECTS CALCIUM ABSORPTION FROM MY DIET?
Fiber-rich foods and plant foods containing phytic acid can negatively affect the absorption of calcium as can caffeine. Excess fat, salt and soft drinks also have a negative effect.
It is better to spread calcium intakes out over the day as opposed to taking it all at once. Studies show that when too much calcium is in the body at once, absorption is diminished.
Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium so it is important to make sure your diet contains sufficient amounts of that nutrient. Vitamin D is stored in the body so it is not necessary to consume the vitamin D at the same time as the calcium, however many calcium supplements contain small amounts of vitamin D as a precautionary measure. Since milk and cereals are usually fortified with vitamin D and sunlight also contributes, older adults without sunlight exposure and with poor diets are most at risk to be deficient in vitamin D.
WHAT KIND OF CALCIUM SUPPLEMENT SHOULD I TAKE?
There are many excellent calcium supplements available on the market. Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Citrate are the most popular sources with calcium carbonate being by far the most abundant. Both calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are excellent sources and are well absorbed. The New England Journal of Medicine (1987) reported that these forms of calcium had similar absorption profiles to the calcium found in milk and these results have been confirmed in subsequent studies.
Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when taken with food. Individuals with the condition achlorhydria (missing stomach acid) seem to absorb calcium citrate better, though the difference is minimized when calcium carbonate is taken with food.
There is one form of calcium which has shown some advantages in absorption properties. The form is known as Calcium bis-glycinate chelate produced by Albion Laboratories Inc. of Clearfield, Utah. See a discussion of this form of calcium under Kirkman's Bio-Max calcium product later in this article.
WHAT OTHER QUALITY ISSUES DO I NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT WHEN CHOOSING CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS?
Poor quality calcium supplements may contain a higher lead content than is desirable. The United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) and the Food Chemicals Codex are considered standards for quality materials used in supplements and the lead tolerance in these publications is three parts per million (ppm), an acceptable level to the Food and Drug Administration. Most reputable companies have adopted these standards. It can also be pointed out that several high quality pharmaceutical grades of calcium are also available which have lead levels far below the 3 ppm accepted standard.
Another issue in quality calcium supplements is disintegration and dissolution standards of the dosage form. A product must dissolve in the body to do any good. Check with your manufacturer to insure that its calcium products meet USP standards.
Finally, look carefully at the label of the calcium supplement you are contemplating buying. The requirements for calcium intake are referring to elemental calcium. Your supplement should be supplying the total amount of the mineral calcium, not an amount of the calcium salt. For example, a supplement should be supplying 600 mg. of elemental calcium, not 600 mg. of calcium carbonate. If a supplement supplied 600 mg. of calcium carbonate, it would only be providing 216 mg. of elemental calcium. If in doubt, call the manufacturer. Calcium is too important to come up short.
CAN I TAKE TOO MUCH CALCIUM?
The National Institute of Health and the Journal of the American Medical Association seem to agree that calcium can be safely consumed up to 2000 mg. per day by most people.
KIRKMAN CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS
All of the following Kirkman calcium products are manufactured with pharmaceutical grade, low lead containing, calcium raw materials and are formulated to meet USP specifications for disintegration and/or dissolution for calcium supplements.
Hypoallergenic Calcium with Vitamin D Powder
An unflavored blend of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate with no additives. Mixes easily in food or drink.
May also be used in baking at moderate temperatures. It has been successfully incorporated into cookies, pancakes, muffins and other baked goods. Some of the vitamin D content may be lost if used in baking.
Sugar-Free, Corn-Free, Soy-Free, Wheat-Free, Milk-Free, Yeast-Free, Casein-Free, Fish-Free, Gluten-Free, No Artificial Colors Or Flavors, No Peanuts Or Tree Nuts