Calcium supplements are used to prevent or reverse osteopenia, a condition where the bone mineral density, or BMD, is lower than normal. If osteopenia worsens, it is called osteoporosis. When the density of a bone is less than normal, or porous, it is weak and susceptible to fractures. Osteopenia can occur at any age in both men and women, especially if you lack a balanced diet and do not get enough exercise. Before you take calcium supplements, ensure its safety for you with your health care provider.
Calcium carbonate is an over-the-counter supplement that supports healthy bones. This type of calcium is recommended to take with food. The stomach acid produced with food intake allows better absorption of this calcium. Mayo Clinic.com recommends taking 500 to 600 mg calcium at one time to improve absorption. Adults age 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg a day, and people over 51 need 1,200 mg.
Calcium citrate, another type of calcium supplement, aids in the formation and maintenance of bone. This calcium comes in a pill form and effervescent tablets that dissolve in a glass of water. Effervescent tablets are a better option if you have difficulty swallowing pills. Both forms are available over the counter. Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food because it does not need stomach acids to promote effective absorption.
Check the Label
Calcium lactate and calcium gluconate are two options for calcium supplementation. The supplements contain low amounts of elemental calcium combined with other sources such as salt. It is important to read the nutrition labels for calcium supplements to determine the true amount of elemental calcium, which is the pure source.
Safety and Precautions
Before taking calcium supplements, action and side effects should be reviewed with your health care provider. There are certain medical conditions and medications that will interact with calcium. For instance, if you have a history of kidney stones, calcium supplements should be directed by your provider only. The effects of certain medications, such as digoxin, antibiotics and antacids, can be altered with the use of calcium supplements.