July 25, 2003, Newsletter Issue #147: More On Calcium

Tip of the Week

Calcium and exercise both help strengthen your bones. There is some indication that exercise doesn`t work for that purpose without sufficient calcium, so calcium is important even though more is not always better. (Another newsletter will discuss what kind of exercise is best for your bones.) Don`t take all your calcium at once. The body doesn`t absorb more than about 500 mg at a time. Calcium carbonate is most common. (Tums is carbonate, 300 mg for the kind that helps your heartburn.)Take it with meals. Calcium citrate is absorbed better so would be better for people who have less stomach acid. You can take it between meals. It is more expensive and you have to take more pills for the same amount of calcium.
It seems that calcium is not absorbed well in the absence of sufficient vitamin D. The amount in most multi-vitamins, 400 IU, is sufficient unless you are older or live in northern latitudes where there is little direct sun. Calcium often comes with magnesium and some experts think you should balance these minerals, with 2 or 3 times more calcium. Vegetarians and others who restrict their intake of animal products need less total calcium than meat eaters, as animal protein tends to cause calcium to be excreted in the urine. Discuss your supplement program with a physician or registered dietician.

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