Did you know that calcium is best absorbed when taken in the dose of <500mg at a time? As the concentration increases, the efficiency of absorption decreases. Taking the analogy of a sponge, less water means complete soaking whereas excess water keeps dripping off. So, if one has been recommended an intake of up to 1000mg (1g) of calcium supplement, it is best to split intake into two separate time intervals to ensure proper absorption. Another good option is to keep a wash out period ; meaning take the supplement for 20 days and then skip for 10 and maintain this pattern. You may also chose to take supplements on alternate days to enhance absorption. While starting a new supplement, start with smaller doses such as 200-300mg and gradually increase up to 500mg.
The fact is that we do not always need to fulfill 100% of the RDA’s which are mere estimates of our requirements but a wholesome balanced diet including all food groups should suffice. Having said that, certain populations such as infants, toddlers, adolescents, pregnant and lactating mothers, and post-menopausal women have increased requirements and need carefully monitored supplemental dose.
In our previous blog we discussed about right form of calcium. Now lets have a look at dose /amount required.
How much calcium is there in that pill?
Calcium pill is not fully made of calcium, it contains another element as well which helps during its journey into the stomach or aids its absorption. Usually there is calcium bound to carbonates or citrates and also gluconate or lactate. They contain varying amounts of calcium:
- Calcium carbonate (40 percent elemental calcium)
- Calcium citrate (21 percent elemental calcium)
- Calcium gluconate (9 percent elemental calcium)
- Calcium lactate (13 percent elemental calcium)
This means that in a calcium tablet like for e.g. shelcal-500 – there is 1250 mg calcium carbonate, out of this only 40% is calcium so we get 500mg. The amount of elemental calcium present is of relevance because that is the actual useful fraction of the pill.
So it is important to note the serving size (no of tablets) of the given supplement to ensure that we are not taking more or less than our requirement.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation also recommend that an extra 200-300ml water need to be consumed for every 200-300mg dose of calcium supplement. Increasing total fluid intake can help prevent the gastric side effects that are seen with calcium supplements.
The best way to get calcium is through the dietary sources because they are natural and best absorbed. However, to compensate for poor intakes or under special circumstances of increased requirements supplements become necessary. But, just popping the pill is not enough it is important to understand the right form, dose and time in order to gain its maximum benefits.
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