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Which Calcium Should I Use?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 9 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Osteoporosis Calcium Supplement

For most women of any age, taking a calcium supplement is an important part of their health regimen. But for women going through the menopausal transition and beyond, it is of particular concern.

Preventing Osteoporosis

The changes that come with menopause mean that your oestrogen drops significantly, leaving you without the protective effect is has on bone metabolism. Losing some bone density is common but the idea is that you build up a ‘bone bank’ prior to menopause and continue your supplementation, helping reduce the effects of menopause.

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes a thinning of the bones, leaving women at an increased risk of fractures. For this reason, it is vital that you choose the right calcium supplement and take it consistently. You should also increase your intake of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products.

Taking a Regular Calcium Supplement

While it is always ideal to get most of your nutrients from a wide variety of foods, it is usually advised that you take a calcium supplement. There are, however, several different kinds of calcium.

For women choosing a calcium supplement, it can be confusing to make sense of the literature and to know which is best. Adding to the confusion is that the vast majority of people working in health food stores and even clerks in pharmacies are not always up-to-date on the research around supplements.

Calcium Citrate

Calcium citrate is taken with or without food. Some research suggests it is more easily digested in comparison with other forms of calcium such as calcium carbonate. It is typically one of the more expensive forms of calcium, which you may want to keep in mind when choosing a calcium supplement.

Calcium Carbonate

Calcium carbonate is probably the most common kind of calcium supplement available and it is one of the cheapest as well. Most people will take it with a meal and it’s often found within antacids and similar products. It is generally considered to be a reliable form of calcium that is accessible to most people.

Coral calcium has been a ‘hot’ topic in the media in recent years but it is actually just calcium carbonate. The fact that it is derived from coral reefs has been used to imply it has special qualities. It is, however, simply calcium carbonate and trace minerals, but coupled with an expensive price tag.

In studies, however, the results are mixed. Some research suggests that there is no significant difference from one form of calcium to another but others have put calcium carbonate at the low end of the scale for absorption.

Calcium Hydroxyapatite

Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite is another form of calcium to consider. Again, studies are mixed but it has in some cases been shown as superior to calcium carbonate. Similar to calcium citrate supplements, it is also usually priced higher than calcium carbonate supplements.

Chelated Calcium

Calcium chelates involve the binding of calcium to certain molecules. It is thought to have better absorption when you take it without food. Overall, however, chelated calcium is comparable to other calcium supplements, particularly where you take it with a meal. It is not the easiest calcium to find in shops and if you do want to take calcium chelates, you may have to do some searching to locate the supplement.

Key Cofactors to Get the Most from a Calcium Supplement

If you are taking your calcium supplement regularly, you should be taking other nutrients regularly as well. Vitamin D is vital for calcium metabolism. You can take it in supplement form or aim for fifteen minutes to half an hour of sun each day.

Ideally, try to get your sunshine in the off-peak hours of the day during the warmer months. Other nutrients to include are magnesium and zinc, which can help you get the most out of your calcium supplement.

Strong and Healthy Bones

Menopause brings with it many changes and unfortunately, the effects on a woman’s bones are not one of the positive ones. You can, however, take the right calcium supplement and cofactors to keep your bones and body strong and healthy for life – before, during and after your menopausal transition.

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