Calcium formulas must contain a bioactive vitamin D for maximum absorption.
Calcium is vitally important for overall health and is one of the most important minerals for human health. Almost every cell in the body uses calcium in some way. As we age, we absorb less and less calcium. This causes the body to take more and more calcium from the bones. Over time, the aging process can cause or contribute to osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Calcium performs a number of basic functions in the body. The body uses 99 percent of its calcium to keep bones and teeth strong, thereby supporting skeletal structure and function. Calcium also plays a key role in cell signaling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function. Cells use calcium to activate certain enzymes, transport ions across the cellular membrane and send and receive neurotransmitters during communication with other cells. Interestingly, calcium is also an electrolyte or particle that helps conduct electricity in the body, which helps to maintain a regular heartbeat.
Calcium also impacts how the body absorbs and uses other nutrients. As previously mentioned, calcium carries a very small electrical charge, which is why it can conduct electricity within the body. Because the body only absorbs a certain number of charged particles at once, the presence of calcium may cause a temporary lower absorption rate of other naturally charged minerals, such as iron, zinc and magnesium. The decreased absorption of these minerals may not be severe enough to cause nutritional deficiencies. Nonetheless, retailers need to make their customers aware that consuming charged minerals, such as iron, zinc and magnesium must be done at least two hours before or after eating calcium-rich foods.
People get calcium from the food they eat. Calcium-rich foods include milk, cheeses and other dairy products. People can also get calcium from dietary supplements. In fact, some of the more innovative dietary supplement formulas are calcium formulas. There are many calcium formulas on the market and retailers need to educate themselves on the best formulas to stock their shelves accordingly.
That said, the amount of calcium needed from a calcium formula depends on how much calcium is obtained from the diet. Furthermore, there are several different calcium compounds to choose from, including calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, among others. All calcium formulas are absorbed equally well when taken with food with the exception of people with gastrointestinal diseases.
Furthermore, retailers must stock their shelves with calcium formulas that contain vitamin D, since calcium will not be absorbed if vitamin D is not included. A lack of vitamin D will impact the production of the hormone calcitrol. Bioactive vitamin D or calcitriol is a steroid hormone that has been known for its important role in regulating body levels of calcium and phosphorus, and in mineralization of bone. More recently, it has become clear that receptors for vitamin D are present in a wide variety of cells, and that this hormone has biologic effects, which extend far beyond control of mineral metabolism. In fact, a lack of calcitrol will also impact calcium absorption from the diet. When this happens, the body must take calcium from its stores in the skeleton, which weakens existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone. This is why retailers need to direct their customers to calcium formulas that contain bioactive vitamin D or calcitrol. Additionally, in addition to a bioactive vitamin D, there are other compounds that are also included in quality calcium formulas that retailers need to be aware in an effort to provide the very best guidance to their customers. Some of those compounds are as follows, among others:
Vitamin K2: Works synergistically with calcium and vitamin D. Also called menaquinone, vitamin K2 is made by the bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract. It goes straight to the blood vessel walls, bones and tissues. Vitamin K2s biological role is to help move calcium into the proper areas of the body, such as the bones and teeth.
Magnesium: Assures the strength and firmness of bones and makes teeth harder. Since magnesium participates in an astonishing array of biochemical reactions, it’s no surprise that it’s essential for healthy bones and teeth. Most notably, adequate magnesium is essential for absorption and metabolism of calcium.
Potassium: Not necessarily known for aiding bone health, potassium is a mineral that helps nerves and muscles communicate, as well as help cells remove waste. However, it turns out that potassium may neutralize acids that remove calcium from the body.
Understanding Calcium Compounds
Several different kinds of calcium compounds are used in calcium formulas. Each compound contains varying amounts of the mineral calcium — also known as elemental calcium. Common calcium compounds may be labeled as:
• Calcium carbonate (40 percent elemental calcium)
• Calcium citrate (21 percent elemental calcium)
• Calcium gluconate (9 percent elemental calcium)
• Calcium lactate (13 percent elemental calcium)
The two main forms of calcium supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate costs less and is often a good first choice. To determine which calcium compound may be best for your customer, consider these factors:
Absorbability: The body must be able to absorb calcium for it to be effective. All varieties of calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken in small doses (500 mg or less) at meals. Calcium citrate is absorbed equally well when taken with or without food and is a form recommended for individuals with low stomach acid (more common in individuals 50 and older or if taking stomach acid blockers), inflammatory bowel disease or absorption disorders.
Amount of calcium: Elemental calcium is the focus because it’s the actual amount of calcium in the supplement. This is what the body absorbs for bone growth and other health benefits. The Supplement Facts label on calcium formulas is helpful in determining how much calcium is in one serving. For example, calcium carbonate is 40 percent elemental calcium. Therefore, 1,250 milligrams of calcium carbonate contains 500 mg of elemental calcium.
Medications: Calcium supplements can interact with many different prescription medications, including blood pressure medications, synthetic thyroid hormones, bisphosphonates, antibiotics and calcium channel blockers. Retailers should instruct their customers to consult a health professional about possible interactions and which type of calcium supplement would work best for you.
Finally, retailers must caution their customers that consuming too much calcium can lead to constipation and kidney stones. According to the Institute of Medicine, healthy men and women should limit their daily calcium intake to 2,000 to 2,500 milligrams. Additionally, other nutrients can impact calcium absorption. As previously mentioned, the body cannot absorb calcium with a bioactive vitamin D. Retailers must also be cognizant that caffeine, alcohol and excess sodium can all decrease calcium absorption and/or increase calcium excretion from the body. VR
Bolland MJ, et al. Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: Reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011;342:d2040.
Institute of Medicine
Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 15 years. Becker has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor’s in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For almost 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 102 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at Facebook.com/marklbecker and on twitter at Twitter.com/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.