Calcium Supplements FAQ
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What is Calcium and Where Does it Come From?
Calcium is a mineral and chemical element, and in fact is the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, playing a vital role in the cell physiology of just about everything living organism on the planet.
More so than iron, calcium is also the most abundant metal found in animals, making it a basic and highly popular product to take as a dietary supplement for overall health and wellbeing.
The form of calcium most commonly associated with supplements is calcium carbonate, offering similar absorption rates to that of the calcium found in milk. Calcium carbonate is also the cheapest form of supplemental calcium available on the market but there are various other forms available, as we will see below.
What Types of Calcium Products are There?
The most common forms of calcium used in nutritional contexts are as follows:
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium citrate
- Calcium phosphate
- Calcium lactate
- Coral calcium (comprised of calcium carbonate and trace amounts of other minerals)
Calcium citrate is around 21% elemental calcium, which means that not only is it more expensive than calcium carbonate; you also have to take more of it to receive the desired dose.
This form of calcium is typically preferred by achlorhydria sufferers and people who are taking histamine-2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
Calcium phosphate is a little cheaper than calcium citrate and typically contains around 40% elemental calcium.
Calcium lactate is more expensive than calcium carbonate and is also less concentrated, so we can clearly see that either calcium carbonate or coral calcium make the best options for those of us looking to supplement our existing diets with additional calcium.
How Does Calcium Work and What are the Benefits?
Calcium works in the body by means of moving the calcium ion Ca2+ in and out of the cytoplasm, playing all manner of roles throughout the entire organism.
Of course, we are primarily concerned with how this may help to enhance our performance in the gym, boost our recovery, and improve our overall health and wellbeing for the long term.
Interestingly enough, it was once thought that high doses of calcium could contribute to the development of kidney stones, but research is now showing how the opposite is true, and in fact large intakes of calcium can help to reduce incidences of kidney stone formation.
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Who Can Benefit from Taking Calcium Supplements and How?
One of the most common associations people make with calcium is that of bone health, especially increased bone density.
In actual fact there is little data to support this hypothesis, with one exception being post-menopausal women who may stand to benefit from calcium supplementation.
Do Any Foods Contain Calcium? Which Ones are the best?
The most obvious sources of calcium are milk and dairy products, as well as soymilk which is typically manufactured with added calcium.
Nuts, beans, seaweed, figs, and broccoli are also decent sources of calcium, as are leafy greens such as chard and spinach.
The latter two vegetables do contain calcium; however, there is some doubt surrounding the absorption rates of the calcium from these foods because they contain oxalic acid which binds to calcium and may prevent the body from being able to properly or fully utilize it.
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Does Calcium Have any Side Effects?
There has been some research published which establishes a correlation between high doses of calcium in men (2,000mg per day or more) and increases instances of prostate cancer.
It is unclear whether calcium may play a role in the prevention or exacerbation of cancer because there is no solid data demonstrating one way or the other.
The National Cancer Institute recommends not using calcium supplements as a means of preventing cancer.
It can be all too easy for us to haplessly take extra supplements, popping pills like candy and not considering the potential negative effects on our long-term health. With this in mind, please be careful not to consume an excessive amount of supplemental calcium, especially if you are already eating ample quantities of dairy products and calcium-containing vegetables.
Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium, but this does not mean that you necessarily have to take a vitamin D supplement alongside your supplemental calcium because this can actually lead to calcification of the arteries over time if used in excess.
Please CLICK HERE for more information on calcium and vitamin D supplementation.
Our goal here is not to demonize calcium or alarm our readers, but it is important to understand that there is contradictory evidence for calcium and its role in cancer, cardiovascular disease, bone health, and other aspects of health.
With this in mind, we recommend that you use your own due diligence and make sure you always do your homework to get a well-rounded understanding of the various conclusions that individuals and research groups may reach.
Are Calcium Supplements Potentially Dangerous?
As stated above, our intention is not to scare you off of using calcium or any other supplement, but it is important that you understand the risks behind each product and how they may be relevant to your lifestyle and current health status.
There are certainly benefits to be gleaned from calcium supplementation, and there are also potential negative side effects, so it is ultimately up to you to make the decision for yourself whether or not calcium is a supplement that you need or want to be taking.
Calcium supplements are not dangerous in their own right, but understanding the roles they play in your body will help you to better understand their long-term application to your health, wellbeing, and overall performance.
Note: We recommend speaking to a doctor before taking any supplements.
How and When Should I Take Calcium Products?
We recommend that you stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations on the calcium supplement that you purchase.
As per the above information, we recommend that men in general do not consistently take doses of 2,000mg or higher on a daily basis because of the possible links with prostate cancer.
We would like to again emphasize that none of our statements have been evaluated by the medical community, so please speak to your doctor or physician if you would like more definitive advice on the subject of calcium supplementation.
Please note: This FAQ has not been written or reviewed by a doctor or medical professional and is therefore not to be used to prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or illness. Nor should it be used as medical reference.