Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Approximately 99% of calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. Aside from supporting structure, calcium is needed for proper functioning of the heart, muscles, nerves and blood clotting.
Unfortunately, only about half the population meets the daily recommendation for calcium intake. Our modern diet also effects how much of this calcium we hold onto. Most Americans consume large amounts of saturated and trans-fats, animal protein, sodium and sugar all of which promote blood acidity (on a pH scale).
To restore the proper acid-alkaline balance in the blood, potassium, magnesium and calcium are pulled from the bones. This can lead to osteopenia (low bone density) and osteoporosis or porous bone due to lack of minerals as well as a decrease in the non-mineral framework.
Common forms of calcium found in supplements include calcium citrate, calcium carbonate and calcium ascorbate. While each of these forms is readily absorbed when taken with food, calcium citrate contains more elemental calcium, which means that fewer tablets are required to obtain optimal amounts. Calcium is also available as chelates, a form which attaches an amino acid to the mineral to improve mineral absorption. A small study showed the best absorption from amino acid chelates compared with the citrate, calcium carbonate and microcrystalline hydroxyapatite forms.
Whatever the form, calcium supplements typically are better absorbed when eaten with meals. Moreover, research indicates that taking calcium with meals may reduce the risk of kidney stones. It is important to note that merely consuming ample amounts of calcium is not as important as proper metabolism and utilization of calcium. Aside from vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin K and boron, stomach acid and some hormones, such as estrogen and PTH (parathyroid hormone) also play important roles in regulating the metabolism of calcium. Also, there is good evidence that shows that supplementing with calcium at night may be ideal since this is the time that bones naturally break down and releases minerals.
Major Functions of Calcium
– Helps form and maintain healthy teeth and bones
– Needed for heart, muscles and nerves to function properly
– Helps with blood clotting, nerve signaling, muscle contraction and relaxation
– Needed for the release of certain hormones and a normal heartbeat
Milk and dairy products such as yogurt, cheeses, and buttermilk are well known for being good sources of dietary calcium.
Other non-dairy sources of calcium include leafy greens like collards, kale, spinach and chives; beans and legumes; and fortified drinks such as orange juice and soy milk.
Recommended Dietary Allowance
In November 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) updated the Dietary Reference Intakes for vitamin D and calcium. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium in adults 19 to 50 years old is 1,000 mg. Women over the age of 50 should aim for 1,200 mg daily. The upper level intake is 2,500 mg for adults 19 to 50 years and 2,000 mg over age 50.
If you look on a nutritional supplement facts panel, you’ll notice the Amount Per Serving for calcium and the % Daily Values is at located at the top of the panel. The Amount Per Serving is based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for this nutrient which is considered to be sufficient to meet the requirements of nearly all (97–98%) healthy individuals in each life-stage and sex group. The Reference Daily Intake for calcium is 1,000 mg which represents 100% of the Daily Values.
Keep in mind that those with osteopenia or osteoporosis may need upwards of 1,500 mg per day. Whatever amount you are shooting for, try to obtain about half from diet and the other half from supplements. This optimizes the absorption and utilization of calcium and other bone supporting nutrients.
Calcium supplements are known to have interactions with other supplements and some over-the-counter and prescription medications. For example, calcium should not be taken with iron as it interferes with its absorption.
Given its role in bone support, it is not surprising that VitaMedica’s Bone Support formulation features not only calcium but magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D and boron. If the daily recommended dose is taken, Bone Support provides 750 mg of calcium.
Calcium plays less of a role in the recovery process than other nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, copper and bioflavonoids. For this reason, the Recovery Support Program and Clinical Support Program include calcium but at a lower level (300 mg) than our everyday supplement like Bone Support Formula.
Last updated July 1, 2018
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.