Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

October 2010 Wellness Tip

Increasing Calcium

There's more calcium in your body than any other mineral.  The body stores more than 99 percent of its calcium in bones and teeth to help make and keep them strong.  The rest is stored throughout the body in blood, muscle and the fluid between cells.  Your body needs calcium to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes, and to send messages through the nervous system.

It's recommend that adults get 1,000 (ages 18-50 years) to 1,200 (over age 50) milligrams of calcium each day.  Some foods high in calcium that can provide around 1/3 of the daily recommended requirement for calcium are :  one packet of fortified oatmeal, one 3-ounce can of sardines, 1.5 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese, one cup of nonfat milk, or one cup of yogurt.  Other high-calcium foods include cooked soybeans, tofu, fortified orange juice, salmon, pudding, baked beans, cottage cheese, spaghetti and lasagna, fortified cereal and waffles, turnip greens and broccoli.

Most Americans do not get enough calcium from natural food sources.  Calcium-fortified foods and calcium supplements can fill the gap. Several different calcium compounds are used in supplements, including calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate and calcium citrate.  Read the label carefully to determine how much elemental calcium is in the supplement and how many doses or tablets to take.  The best supplement is the one that meets your needs.  Ask:

--How well does my body tolerate this kind of supplement?  Does it cause any side effects?
--Is this kind of supplement convenient?  Can I remember to take it as often as recommended each day?
--Is the cost of this supplement within my budget?
--Is it widely available?  Can I buy it at a store nearby?

Other things to consider in a calcium supplement is the purity of the product, absorbability, and calcium interactions with other over-the-counter and prescription medications.  Chewable and liquid calcium supplements dissolve well because they are broken down before they enter the stomach.  The body best absorbs calcium, whether from food or supplements, when it's taken several times a day in amounts of not more than 500 mg.  Any medications that need to be taken on an empty stomach should not be taken with calcium supplements; calcium also can interfere with antibiotic and mineral absorption.  Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking a calcium supplement.

For more information, check the web pages of NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center through
and click on "Bone Health and Diseases" under the Health Information Index; and Medline Plus of the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health through for links on the latest news, nutrition information, and journal artlcles related to calcium.

Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the FPS Wellness Committee