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Do you get enough calcium?

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Calcium is a mineral that is essential to the health of our bones, teeth, heart, and muscles. Do you get enough calcium from your diet? What are your needs? What supplements should you take? Your pharmacist can answer these questions and more!

Le calcium, en consommez-vous assez?

Calcium: essential to bone health

You have no doubt heard about the importance of calcium in your diet. The human body cannot produce calcium on its own, so consuming it from an external source is essential for us all. Now, a large number of North Americans, both children and adults, do not get enough calcium. Calcium deficiency can cause long-term dental problems and be particularly detrimental to bone health. All our lives, we build up our “bone mass.” Individuals whose intake of calcium has been inadequate throughout their life are susceptible to certain health problems, the most significant of which is osteoporosis. This is a disease characterized by a progressive weakening of bones that leads to a greater risk of fractures.

It must be noted that inadequate calcium intake during childhood or adolescence can prevent bones from growing to their normal mass in adulthood.

What are your calcium needs?

Calcium needs are variable, depending on certain factors such as age and state of health.

In general, the daily calcium intake recommendations by age group are as follows:

Age group

Recommended daily calcium intake

4 to 8 years

800 mg

9 to 18 years

1,300 mg

19 to 50 years

1,000 mg

50 years and above

1,200 mg

Pregnant or breast-feeding women (18 years and above)

1,000 mg

The ideal is to consume as many calcium-rich foods and beverages as possible. It is, however, not always possible to meet your calcium needs through diet alone. This is why many people must consider taking calcium supplements. According to some studies, calcium present in milk products is more beneficial for bone health, and probably for the prevention of osteoporosis, than calcium supplements.

Where can I find calcium?

Food grade calcium is preferred because it does not cause side-effects and is better absorbed by the body. Some foods are richer in calcium than others. For example:

Food

Portion

Calcium content

Milk

1 cup

300 mg

Plain yogurt

¾ cup

332 mg

Yogurt with fruits

¾ cup

200 mg

Fortified soya milk

1 cup

300 mg

Almonds

½ cup

186 mg

Mozzarella cheese

1¼ /3cm cube

200 mg

Canned salmon with bones

½ can

240 mg

Fortified oats

1 sachet

150 mg

Black beans

1 cup

126 mg

Navy beans

1 cup

120 mg

Chickpeas

1 cup

77 mg

Broccoli

½ cup

74 mg

Green/yellow French beans

½ cup

33 mg

Snow peas

½ cup

36 mg

Kiwis

1

26 mg

Oranges

1

50 mg

Skim milk products contain as much calcium as whole milk products.

Calcium supplements: which to choose?

Different calcium salts are available on the market, such as calcium carbonate, citrate, lactate, or gluconate. Before choosing a supplement, you must determine what your calcium needs are. Then, the product label must be checked to determine the amount of elemental calcium that it contains. For example, a 1,250 mg calcium carbonate supplement contains 500 mg of elemental calcium. It’s elemental calcium that we use in the calculation of our needs. Then, we must find out if we need vitamin D because many supplements have both in combination.

The size of calcium tablets can also influence your choice. Calcium tablets are generally quite big. If you have difficulty swallowing tablets, calcium in syrup form or as chewable or effervescent tablets may be preferable for you. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist, who can help you determine your needs and suggest the right supplement for you, if necessary.

Your tolerance to previous calcium tablets may also influence your choice. Calcium tablets can cause heartburn, nausea, and constipation. If you have any of these symptoms, changing the formulation could prove beneficial for you. Your pharmacist can also tell you about how to manage any side-effects you may have.

How to take calcium supplements?

Here are some tips on calcium supplementation:

  • Take calcium supplements while eating. This will reduce digestive side-effects such as stomach ache. Also, calcium is better absorbed when taken with food.
  • Take them with a big glass of water.
  • Space out the intake of tablets if you must take more than one per day because the body cannot absorb more than 500 mg at a time. For instance, if you need to take two tablets per day, it is preferable to take one at lunch and the other at dinner, rather than both at the same time.
  • Check with your pharmacist if calcium supplements can react with the drugs that you are already taking. A pharmacist might advise you to stay away from calcium supplements when taking certain medications.

Investing in bone health is a step that you must take right from childhood and continue all your life. It is never too late to think about it! Your pharmacist or your doctor can help you calculate your calcium intake as well as suggest a good supplement if necessary. Making sure that you get enough calcium is simple and easy and will help prevent important health problems. If your skeleton could talk, it would no doubt want to thank you for it!

Read more on the subject

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Understanding osteoporosis

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Le traitement de l’ostéoporose

The treatment of osteoporosis

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