More than 90% of a person’s bone mass develops before the age of 20. For healthy bones, enough calcium is needed to build up the bone mass that we will need throughout our lives. Green leafy vegetables, yoghurt, cheese, low-fat milk or even calcium-fortified bread, cereal, etc. are excellent dietary sources of calcium.
Or, even so, you can opt for a calcium supplementation if your diet falls short. Before opting for calcium supplements, knowing how much calcium you need and the benefits of calcium tablets can do wonders for your health.
Let’s understand how!
Calcium is the most abundant, healthy mineral in the body, significant for maintaining bone health during growth phases and to preserve bone mineral density (BMD) in elderly individuals.
“Around 99% of total body calcium is deposited in the bones and teeth, where it is vital for growth and maintenance.”
Generally, calcium supplementation is recommended to people who might be at risk of insufficient dietary calcium intake or osteoporosis irrespective of age to avoid the worsening of the bone strength.
Basic calcium requirements for an individual:
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR):
For children aged from 1 to 9 years, 600 mg of calcium daily is recommended
For children aged 10 years onwards till adolescents of 17 years, 800 mg of calcium is recommended
As growing children and adolescents require more calcium for high peak bone mass.
For adults, both male and females require 600 mg of calcium daily. Adults over age 50 should not exceed 2,000 mg total in a day.
In pregnant and lactating mothers, the calcium recommended daily allowance (RDA) increases to 1200 mg/d to meet the increased needs of the baby in the womb and to compensate for calcium secreted in breast milk.
Beware! Even with a balanced and healthy diet, you may find it hard to get enough calcium if you:
- Have lactose intolerance and limit dairy products
- Follow a vegan diet
- Eat a lot more sodium or protein, which can cause your body to excrete more calcium
- Have osteoporosis
- Are getting long-term treatment with corticosteroids
- Have certain bowel or digestive disorders that lessens your ability to absorb calcium, for example, inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease
Are you confused between different calcium compounds used in the supplements?
The science behind each calcium supplement varies with the mineral calcium, called elemental calcium. Common calcium supplements may be categorised as:
- Calcium carbonate (40 % elemental calcium)- Cheapest and often an excellent first choice
- Calcium citrate (21 % elemental calcium)
- Calcium gluconate (9 % elemental calcium)
- Calcium lactate (13 % elemental calcium)
Some calcium supplements are also combined with vitamins and other minerals. For example, some calcium supplements may also contain vitamin D or magnesium.
Go through the ingredient list to see which form of calcium your calcium supplement is and what other nutrients it may comprise.
Potential benefits of calcium tablets supplementation:
In specific populations:
Premenopausal and Postmenopausal women:
In premenopausal women, a history of osteoporotic fractures, diagnosis of osteoporosis, vitamin D deficiency, or high risk for osteoporosis (like primary ovarian insufficiency), calcium supplementation may be considered.
The results of a 2007 study including men and women aged >50 years (plus menopausal women), concluded that acceptable calcium intake with/without vitamin D decreases the risk of fractures of any type as well as issued a modest benefit on reducing the rate of bone loss. Also, there was 0.54% reduction of bone loss in the hip and 1.19% reduction of bone loss in the spine. Calcium supplements have also been shown to improve hip bone density.
Pregnant and lactating women:
During pregnancy and lactation, calcium helps in the proper formation of bones and teeth of the offspring, for the secretion of breast-milk rich in calcium and to avert osteoporosis in the mother.
Studies propose that calcium supplementation during pregnancy decreases the risk of preeclampsia in women with inadequate calcium intakes. A Cochrane review of 13 clinical trials in 2014 established that daily supplementation with 1,000 mg or more of calcium during a pregnancy diminishes the risk of preeclampsia by 55%.
In an International study, calcium supplement resulted in significantly lower bone mineral content, bone area, and BMD at the hip through 12-month lactation.
Calcium supplementation improves bone mineral content and BMD in children. In clinical practice, children with a high risk of osteoporosis (for instance, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or congenital bone disorder) or low calcium intake may profit from calcium supplementation.
According to various studies, calcium supplementation plays a protective role for bone health, improves BMD and decreases the morbidity of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures in different genders and age-groups.
As per the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), the best evidence (grade A) is available for positive effects of calcium intake on the prevention of osteoporosis for children or adults.
Also, regular exercise and suitable intakes of calcium and vitamin D are associated with the development and maintenance of healthy bones during the lifetime.
“Well-balanced diet rich in calcium, may lower the risk of osteoporosis” and “Sufficient calcium and vitamin D in diet, along with physical activity lowers the risk of osteoporosis in later life”- as stated in the model health claims by the FDA in January 2010.
An optimum dietary intake of calcium has been proved to reduce the risk of death from all causes and cardiovascular diseases. Calcium may slightly adjust lipid profiles and lower blood pressure and – more importantly – the risk of developing hypertension. In many studies, the chances of developing hypertension were decreased with calcium supplements in both men and women.
Many studies have connected higher calcium intakes to lower body weights or less weight gain with time. This can be explained as:
High calcium intakes might reduce calcium concentrations in fat cells by reducing the production of parathyroid hormone and an active form of vitamin D. This, in turn, promotes fat breakdown and discourage fat accumulation in these cells. Also, calcium from food or supplements might bind to small amounts of dietary fat in the digestive tract and avoid its absorption.
One should always keep in mind that before taking calcium supplements, talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits for the same.
Don’t push it too far, more calcium you take at one time, it becomes more difficult for your body to process it. So, stick to the recommended levels of calcium supplementation to draw maximum benefits!