1000 Milligrams of Calcium. What does that really mean?

There is a statistic I heard years ago that stated women in the United States have the highest rate of osteoporosis, and also consume the most amount of calcium from dairy products and supplementation. This correlated with a famous Harvard Nurses Study that reported women consuming the most calcium, ironically had the weakest bones.

Cultural studies have been done that also connect the ratio of calcium to magnesium as a determining factor. The further apart the ratio (lower amount of magnesium to higher amounts of calcium) the higher the rate of osteoporosis in that country.

That information always comes to mind anytime a friend, family member, or client contacts me about my opinion on a good calcium supplement. Many times they want to know because their doctor recently told them to start taking 1000 mg of calcium a day.

I think this is still one of the most complex health questions to answer. Not only because of the points presented in the Harvard Nurses Study and alike, but the measurement of calcium found in supplements and your body is complex, therefore, a recommendation of 1000 mg’s is vague and inaccurate.

What 1000 milligrams of calcium really means

Take a look at a supplements facts panel on a bottle of calcium and it could contain any of these forms: citrate, carbonate, hydroxyapatite, aspartate, lactate, lysinate, alpha-ketoglutarate, gluconate, malate, to name a few. These forms could be sold by themselves or in a combination of two or more together.

Depending on how that calcium product is labeled, those “forms” are also measurable molecules themselves. For instance Calcium Citrate, if listed just like that, is actually 21% calcium, yielding 210mg of calcium in your “1000mg” labeled supplement. 790mg is citrate.

Keep in mind there are many possible combinations to the above example, given the numerous forms available. How can a doctor just send us out the door with the 1000 mg recommendation and know we are getting what they want us to get? How do we know we are getting the best product? Or that we are getting the same thing that the same doctor recommended to their last patient when telling them to go get 1000 mg’s of Calcium?

Unfortunately, many times doctors don’t know what they are recommending or why, and if they do, they are certainly not taking the time to explain it to their patients. I have never once seen a customer come into a store with the proper detail they should have when shopping for a calcium supplement. And given the extreme variety of the hundreds of calcium supplements on the market, there is no way to properly monitor what is helping patients and what is hurting them.

The bottom line is, comparing apples to apples when purchasing calcium supplements is almost impossible for the everyday consumer, and most of the time the staff in your local vitamin store doesn’t really understand the differences either.

Absorbing 1000 milligrams of calcium

Let’s go back to the supplement facts panel one more time. If you follow the recommendations of your doctor to the best of your ability and purchase 1000 mg’s of Calcium, and there are no other minerals, vitamins, or nutrients in the formula to work synergistically with the calcium, YOU WILL NOT ABSORB anywhere near 1000 mg of Calcium. Worse yet, what can’t get absorbed into the bone, runs a risk of getting absorbed into all of the wrong places.

Excess calcium is a major factor in numerous adverse conditions including kidney stones, gallstones, calcification of the arteries or heart, and calcification on top of the bones, among others.

There is a lot to absorb (pun intended) when it comes to understanding mineral supplementation. Post by post we are trying to give you pieces of information so you find the mineral and bone support that best supports your overall health. Type the word Calcium into the search box on the upper right hand corner of this blog page or follow this link, and you will read how we have been connecting the dots.

Photo credit: healthcastle.com

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