Calcium Supplements – How much REALLY?
Many people take calcium supplements to help stave off bone loss, but how much calcium you actually get from a supplement is not as straightforward as it may seem. In nature, calcium exists only as a compound (such as calcium carbonate or calcium citrate). Each compound contains a different amount of “elemental” calcium which is the important ingredient needed for bone health.When you take a calcium supplement, it’s the amount of elemental calcium that’s the key to bone health. If the amount isn’t clearly stated on the bottle, check the Nutrition Facts label, which will include how much elemental calcium – often listed simply as “calcium” – is in a serving size. The following example illustrates the point. Tums Ultra 1000 contains 1,000mg of calcium carbonate per tablet, BUT only 40% of the calcium carbonate is elemental calcium, meaning one tablet has only 400mg of the essential mineral needed.Too many times the recommended serving size on the supplement label does not meet your daily calcium requirement. Again using the same simple example, Tums Ultra 1000 lists a serving size as two tablets, adding up to 800mg of calcium – not nearly enough for adults over the age of 50, who should get 1,200 to 1,500mg a day.If you have questions about the correct dosage, ask your doctor or health care provider how many pills you should take per day. Also, it’s best to spread out your daily dosage of calcium so you don’t take more than 600mg of elemental calcium at one time; the body absorbs larger amounts less efficiently. Finally, take calcium carbonate with meals, because this type of calcium is absorbed better in the presence of stomach acid.
The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter

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