Should You Take Calcium Supplements?

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    Calcium supplements can assist in keeping bones strong, regulating muscle contractions, and proper nerve functioning.

    When it comes to taking care of your body, calcium is an essential nutrient that you should pay attention to. Calcium helps you maintain strong bones and teeth and can also assist with nerve function and muscle contraction. With rising awareness and research, many people are wondering if they should be taking calcium supplements to ensure they're getting enough of this critical mineral. Deciding whether or not to take a supplement can be confusing, so let's dive into the topic of calcium supplementation and break down everything you need to know.

    The Importance of Calcium

    Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in several bodily functions. It is responsible for building strong bones and teeth, and it also supports proper muscle function. It also helps with blood clotting, nerve transmission, and hormone secretion.

    Calcium’s main role is to help build and maintain strong bones. Our bones are constantly undergoing changes throughout our lives, with old bone tissues being replaced by new ones. Calcium helps ensure this process goes smoothly by providing the necessary building blocks for strong, dense bones.

    Calcium plays a vital role in muscle contraction. During muscle contraction, calcium ions bind to specific proteins that enable muscle fibers to interact and generate tension. This interaction results in the shortening of muscles required for various body movements.

    Calcium also plays a significant role in regulating blood pressure and heart rate by affecting smooth muscle contractions within blood vessels. Calcium is responsible for stimulating the release of neurotransmitters that cause vasodilation or vasoconstriction, depending on the situation.

    However, despite its importance, many people don't consume enough calcium in their diets, creating a gap that can lead to various health problems.

    How Much Calcium Do You Need?

    The recommended daily amount (RDA) of calcium for most adults is between 1000-1200 mg. However, certain groups of people, including adolescents, pregnant women, and older adults may require more.

    It's important to note that getting too much calcium can be harmful as well. The upper limit for daily intake from both food and supplements is 2500 mg. Be sure to not exceed this amount unless instructed by your doctor.

    Consuming excessive amounts of calcium can lead to other health problems and even interfere with the absorption of other essential minerals, such as iron. Therefore, it's important to stick within the recommended ranges for optimal health benefits.

    Who Should Take a Calcium Supplement?

    While calcium can be obtained from our diet, it may be difficult to consume enough through food alone. When that’s the case, taking a calcium supplement may be necessary to meet your body's demands for this critical nutrient.

    Individuals who are looking to support bone health and healthy bone mineral density would benefit from taking a calcium supplement. Additionally, anyone who smokes or consumes alcohol would benefit from a calcium supplement, since alcohol and smoking tend to deplete calcium levels more rapidly. Lastly, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding require higher levels of calcium intake to support the growth and development of their baby's bones.

    However, it is important to note that not everyone requires a calcium supplement. If you already consume a varied diet rich in dairy products, leafy greens, or fortified foods, you may not need additional supplementation. It is important to discuss supplementation with your healthcare provider prior to taking calcium.

    Benefits of a Calcium Supplement

    One major benefit of taking a calcium supplement is supporting bone health. As we age, our bones can naturally become weaker and more brittle, which can increase the risk of fractures and other bone-related conditions. While this process is a natural part of aging, consuming adequate nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus through diet or supplementation along with lifestyle changes like physical activity and weight bearing exercise can help maintain strong healthy bones.

    Another potential benefit of taking a calcium supplement supporting dental health since teeth are our only exposed bones in the body. Calcium is particularly important because it can support the enamel of your teeth while diet and oral hygiene can help prevent tooth decay.

    Calcium supplements can also help maintain several bodily functions, including muscle contraction, blood clotting, communication between cells, and regulation of blood pressure and heart rate. Without adequate amounts of calcium, these critical bodily functions can be disrupted.

    Risks and Dangers of Calcium Supplements

    Minerals can be challenging to manage and process for those with pre-existing kidney issues. Always talk to your doctor before starting new supplements.

    Moreover, taking excess amounts of calcium beyond the upper limit (2500mg) can lead to various side effects. High levels of calcium in the blood can lead to nausea, vomiting, constipation, and even confusion. Therefore, it is important for individuals who take calcium supplements to monitor their intake carefully and consult a healthcare professional if they experience any symptoms related to excess consumption.

    Types of Calcium Supplements

    Not all calcium supplements are created equal. There are multiple different forms available. Understanding the differences between them can help you choose the right supplement for your needs. The two most common types of calcium supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.

    Calcium carbonate tends to be the most popular calcium supplement available. It is typically derived from limestone and is highly absorbable in acidic environments like the stomach. Calcium citrate, on the other hand, is made from citric acid and tends to be less absorbable than carbonate. However, it may have some advantages for those with digestive issues or who take medications that reduce stomach acid production.

    In addition to carbonate and citrate forms, there are other types of calcium supplements available as well, such as gluconate and lactate. These forms aren’t as popular, as the body is not able to absorb these as well as it absorbs some others.

    Foods That Contain Calcium

    Calcium is found in various food sources, including animal- and plant-based foods. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are the most popular sources of calcium. A single cup of cow's milk contains around 300 mg of calcium, which is almost one-third of the recommended daily intake for adults.

    While dairy products are known to be rich sources of calcium, there are plenty of other animal-based foods too that contain this vital mineral. Some of the most significant animal-based sources of calcium include fish with edible bones like canned salmon or sardines, shrimp or prawns with shells intact, eggs, and beef liver. These foods not only provide our bodies with an adequate amount of calcium but also have additional nutrients like protein and vitamin D that aid in its absorption.

    However, if you're lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, there are plenty of other excellent plant-based sources of calcium to choose from. Legumes and dark leafy greens like kale, bok choy, and collard greens are fantastic vegetable options that pack a punch when it comes to calcium content. One cup of cooked kale contains around 177 mg of calcium.

    The Bottom Line

    Taking a calcium supplement can have numerous benefits for people of all ages. Bone, dental, and muscle health can all be supported. With such an array of advantages, it's no wonder that calcium supplements are becoming so popular.

    For those who are not getting enough calcium in their diet, who smoke or consume alcohol, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, a calcium supplement can help fill the gaps and provide great benefits.

    It is important to choose a calcium supplement with high bioavailability that is sustainably sourced. Care/of’s Calcium Plus supplement contains 480 mg of calcium from Icelandic algae , along with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 for optimal absorption.

    You're unique. Your supplements should be too.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.