Q. I am a 36-year-old woman. I know calcium is important so I eat quite a bit of dairy. I’ve heard that I should also take calcium supplements. Is this true or can I get enough from just my diet and a multivitamin?
A. After the age of 30, our bones will be as dense as they will ever be (which is why it’s so important for children and young adults to get enough calcium in their diets). As women age, we all lose bone due to hormonal changes so it is very important that we get enough calcium to prevent a ‘calcium-bone-deficit.’ (This is especially true in this part of the world as calcium is often lacking in the traditional Asian diet).
While everyone should follow your lead in making sure you eat calcium-rich foods every day, it is also important that you take a daily calcium supplement along with your daily multivitamin. Why? Because there is no guarantee that your body will absorb all the calcium it needs from the foods you eat.
When purchasing supplements, take note that calcium is worthless without vitamin D3. So be sure to pick a supplement that contains vitamin D3 and magnesium (as we seldom get enough of this important mineral through our food and multivitamin.) Because calcium is better absorbed when you take no more than 600mg at a time, calcium needs to be taken twice a day, known as a ‘divided dose.’
There are many different types of calcium supplements for you to choose from:
Calcium Carbonate:This is the most common and least expensive form and must be taken with food or drink (Note: be careful not to down a glass of OJ to swallow the pill! Vitamin C inhibits the absorption of calcium). Look for brands that contain 500 to 600mg, plus at least 200IU vitamin D3 per tablet. Take 500 to 600mg (one tablet) twice a day – one with breakfast or lunch, and the second with dinner.
Calcium Citrate: This form causes the least gastrointestinal problems, so this form of calcium is better tolerated if you suffer from indigestion or more serious GI concerns. You do not need to take this one with food, however it is bulkier, so if you hate swallowing pills then this is not the option for you! Each tablet contains 200 to 300mg of calcium so you will have to swallow twice as many pills. Take 500 to 600mg (two or three tablets) twice a day.
Two Important Notes:
1. If the multivitamin you are currently taking contains iron, NEVER take it at the same time as your calcium supplement – iron, like vitamin C can inhibit absorption.
2. Men should NOT take a calcium supplement. Some research shows a possible link between increased calcium and prostate cancer. Men should aim to get no more than 1,000mg of calcium from food sources daily – about 2 or 3 servings. Men diagnosed with bone density issues should follow their GP’s advice about appropriate supplementation.
–Gabrielle Tüscher, M.S., R.D. is a United States accredited Registered Dietician with a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Food Studies. Recognized as one of the leading nutrition authorities, Gabrielle’s clientele includes high-profile celebrities, fashion models, and award winning hotels, restaurants and spas.
Learn more about Gabrielle and Yummy Mummy Asia’s other experts here.