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Calcium Supplement Absorption

Important considerations when preventing or treating bone thinning is adequate calcium and vitamin D intake. The National Institutes of Health Consensus panel recommends 1000 milligrams of calcium for adult women until menopause. After menopause, the recommended range is 1000 to 1500 milligrams of calcium per day. If taking hormone replacement therapy or other preventative medications, the usual recommended dose is 1000 to 1200 milligrams per day. If not taking preventative medications in menopause, the recommendation is 1500 milligrams per day.

Calcium products are numerous and often of vary in quality and dose. The amount of calcium absorbed and utilized by the bone depends on a number of factors, including the solubility of the product, dose, number of dosages per day, and potential interference from co-ingested foods and medications. For instance, antacids can impair the absorption of calcium.

Approximately 3-5% of patient's report occasional gas cramps when taking any calcium supplement. Fortunately, taking with meals will increase absorption of the supplement while reducing cramps. When deciding on a calcium product, evaluating the amount of elemental calcium per dose is paramount. The calcium dosages listed above are based upon the elemental calcium per day. Calcium carbonate products (TUMS®, Os-Cal®, Caltrate®) contain 40% elemental calcium. Calcium citrate products (Citracal®) contain 21% elemental calcium. This factor correlates into the number of supplements necessary to achieve the appropriate dose per day. For instance, two tablets twice daily of TUMS-Ex® per day equate to 1200 milligrams of elemental calcium per day. Four to five tablets of Citracal® are required to achieve the same amount of elemental calcium. It is preferred to take calcium supplements in divided doses throughout the day to aid in maximal absorption and tolerability. Spacing the doses by several hours or taking your calcium supplement with meals is optimal.

The absorption of various calcium products is often debated. Results from a recent study show calcium citrate and calcium carbonate products with equivalent absorption rates.

Vitamin D is essential for the calcium to be absorbed. Manufactured in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight, vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium into the body from the gastrointestinal system. Recommended dosages for vitamin D vary depending on age and exposure to sunlight. Current guidelines suggest 400 international units (IU) per day for adults and 600 to 800 IU per day for people over age 61. Numerous calcium products contain vitamin D in appropriate amounts.

The bottom line is that the best calcium supplement is one that is tolerated well by the individual, convenient to take, not cost prohibitive and manufactured from a quality source.

Copyright ©2003 content, MenopauseRx, Inc. The information provided by MenopauseRx, Inc. is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health-care provider. Please consult your health-care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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