Calcium Up Close
We are quite used to hearing about how important
calcium is for our well-being. When you were a
child, you were often told, "Drink your milk or you
won't grow!". Now you are told, "Do you want brittle
bones when you're old?"
It seems like these warnings will never cease – and
with good reason too. Calcium is extremely important
for good bone and teeth health. And seeing as how
common osteoporosis has become, we had better start
The daily diet of many people does not meet the
recommended daily intake of calcium, which is why
they rely on supplements.
Calcium in supplements is not pure calcium, but a
compound of calcium and another element. There are a
number of different compounds - calcium carbonate,
calcium citrate, calcium phosphate and calcium
lactate, of which the first two are the most common.
One of the key factors that differentiates the
different compounds is the amount of elemental
Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is one of the main types
of calcium found in supplements and is available in
different forms - liquid, tablets and capsules. It
is one of the less expensive forms, but has a
relatively high amount of elemental calcium.
Calcium carbonate has an alkaline base and requires
more stomach acid for maximum absorption. Therefore,
it is best to take this supplement after meals.
Primarily prescribed as a dietary calcium
supplement, calcium carbonate is also a frequent
ingredient in antacids for the treatment for stomach
ache, acid reflux and indigestion.
Not limited to health and medicinal products, this
compound is also found in household items such as
toothpaste and baking powder.
Calcium carbonate is not recommended for those with
low levels of stomach acid (absorption is not as
good) as it may cause constipation and bloating.
Certain diuretics that contain thiazide may also
react adversely with calcium carbonate.
Calcium carbonate can cause a number of side effect
s, including nausea, vomiting, constipation, stomach
ache and metallic taste.
Calcium citrate (Ca3(C6H5O7)2) is a more expensive
calcium compound, but it is easily digested and
absorbed. However, it contains less elemental
calcium than calcium carbonate. It is also available
in different forms, such as pills and effervescent
Individuals on antacids with an aluminium content
should consult their doctors before taking calcium
citrate supplements. This is because calcium citrate
may increase the amount of aluminium absorption into
the bloodstream, which is particularly dangerous for
those with kidney disease. Those who have had kidney
stones should also be careful and seek medical
advice before taking this form or calcium.
OTHER FORMS OF CALCIUM
Calcium phosphate actually belongs to a family of
different minerals which combine calcium ions (Ca2+)
and either orthophosphates (PO43-) or pyrophosphates
Calcium phosphate is used to treat and prevent
calcium deficiencies. Besides supplements, calcium
phosphate is also found in cosmetics and industrial
Calcium gluconate (C12H22CaO14) has multiple uses.
As with other forms, it treats calcium deficiencies
resulting from conditions like hypoparathyroidism.
It is also administered to those who suffer from
rickets and osteomalacia. It is not a form that is
normally found in supplements as it is administered
Calcium lactate (C6H10CaO6) is used in both antacids
and calcium supplements. Unlike other forms of
calcium, it does not need to be taken with food as
it does not require an acidic condition for
absorption. It is frequently added to sugar-tree
foods as a preventive measure against tooth decay.
Without question, calcium should be an essential
part of your daily dietary intake, not only for
building healthy bones and teeth, but also for other
body functions like blood clotting and regulation of
Before taking calcium supplements, it is best to
consult your physician, who can help decide which
type is right for you and to avoid any unwanted
interactions or side effects