Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining strong bones and teeth, muscle function, nerve transmission, and overall good health. While it’s best to get your calcium from a balanced diet, many individuals require calcium supplements to meet their daily needs.
Here is a comprehensive buying guide that outlines crucial factors to take into account when buying calcium supplements, along with a curated list of the top 5 recommended brands. If you are searching for the best calcium supplements, this guide has you covered.
1. Understand Your Calcium Needs
Before buying a calcium supplement, it’s essential to determine your daily calcium requirements. Factors like age, gender, and overall health can influence your calcium needs. For a healthy adult, the recommended daily intake ranges from 500-1000 mg/day. Consult with a healthcare professional to assess your specific requirements.
2. Types of Calcium Supplements
There are various types of calcium supplements available, and each has its unique characteristics:
a. Calcium Carbonate: Calcium carbonate supplements tend to be the best value because they contain the highest amount of elemental calcium (about 40% by weight). This is the most common and affordable form of calcium supplement. It’s best absorbed when taken with food because stomach acid aids in its absorption. Most people tolerate calcium carbonate well, but some may complain of mild constipation or bloating.
b. Calcium Citrate: This type is better absorbed on an empty stomach and is an excellent choice for individuals with low stomach acid, older adults, or those taking acid-reducing medications. Calcium citrate supplements are absorbed more easily than calcium carbonate. But calcium citrate is only 21% calcium, so you may need a higher dosage to meet your daily requirement.
c. Calcium Phosphate: Less common than calcium carbonate or citrate, this form is well-absorbed and can be taken with or without food.
d. Calcium Lactate: Like calcium citrate, this form is well-absorbed and can be taken on an empty stomach. It’s less available to be absorbed and used by your body. For this reason, calcium lactate is not the most practical form of oral supplemental calcium. Calcium lactate contains only 13% elemental calcium, which means you have to take more of it than most other forms of calcium.
e. Calcium Gluconate: Often used intravenously in medical settings, calcium gluconate supplements are less common for oral use. It has only 9% of elemental calcium.
3. Calcium Supplements with Added Nutrients
Some calcium supplements come with added nutrients for improved absorption. These vitamins and minerals synergize with calcium to support bone health and overall well-being. Some of them are:
a. Vitamin D: Often paired with calcium, vitamin D enhances calcium absorption in the gut. It plays a role in bone health, immune function, and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Together, calcium and vitamin D form a powerful duo for optimal skeletal strength.
b. Magnesium: Magnesium works synergistically with calcium to support muscle function and nerve transmission. It aids in the activation of vitamin D, further contributing to calcium absorption. This dynamic combination ensures a balanced mineral intake for robust bodily functions.
c. Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 directs calcium to where it’s needed most – the bones and teeth. It prevents calcium buildup in arteries and soft tissues, promoting cardiovascular health. This nutrient synergy ensures calcium is utilized effectively throughout the body.
d. Zinc: Zinc plays a crucial role in various physiological processes, including immune function and wound healing. When combined with calcium, it supports the body’s natural defense mechanisms, contributing to overall health and vitality.
e. Boron: Boron aids in the metabolism of calcium and magnesium, ensuring they are efficiently utilized. This trace mineral also contributes to joint health and supports the maintenance of strong bones.
f. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant powerhouse known for its immune-boosting properties. When paired with calcium, it aids in collagen production, vital for healthy skin, hair, and nails. This combination provides a holistic approach to well-rounded health.
4. Dosage & Elemental Calcium Content
Check the label for the amount of elemental calcium in each serving. For example, calcium carbonate contains 40% elemental calcium and calcium citrate contains 21% calcium. Calculate the dosage you need to meet your daily requirements accurately.
5. Purity & Quality
When selecting calcium supplements, it’s crucial to prioritize purity and quality. Here are some key considerations:
a. Certifications: Look for supplements certified by reputable organizations such as FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices). These certifications indicate that the product meets stringent quality standards.
b. Third-Party Testing: Some supplements undergo third-party testing by independent laboratories. Look for products that display a certification or label from organizations like NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories).
c. Ingredient Transparency: The label should provide clear information about the ingredients, including the type of calcium used and any additional nutrients or additives. Avoid supplements that use excessive fillers, artificial colors, or flavors.
d. Reputable Brands: Choose supplements from well-known and trusted brands with a track record of producing high-quality products. Established companies often invest in research and quality control to ensure their products meet safety and efficacy standards.
6. Allergen Information
If you have food allergies or sensitivities, check the supplement label for potential allergens. Some calcium supplements may contain common allergens like soy, gluten, or dairy.
7. Dosage Forms
Calcium supplements are available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, and liquids. Select a form that is convenient for you to take regularly. However, it is said that chewable and liquid calcium supplements dissolve well because they break down before they enter the stomach.
For some individuals, specific calcium supplements may lead to mild side effects like gas or constipation. If simple methods, such as increasing fluid intake and incorporating high-fiber foods in the diet, do not alleviate the side effects, consider switching to a different form of calcium. Additionally, it’s crucial to slowly increase your calcium dosage. Start with 500 mg per day for a week, then gradually introduce more calcium. Always seek your doctor’s approval before exceeding the recommended calcium dosage.
9. Cost Considerations
When purchasing calcium supplements, it’s essential to consider cost-effectiveness without compromising the quality. Here are some tips for cost considerations:
a. Price Comparison: Compare prices of different brands and forms of calcium supplements. Do not assume that higher-priced supplements are always of better quality. Look for reputable brands that offer good value for money.
b. Form of Calcium: Different forms of calcium supplements may vary in price. For example, calcium carbonate supplements are often more affordable compared to other forms like calcium citrate. Consider which form best suits your budget and needs.
c. Buying in Bulk: Purchasing calcium supplements in bulk can often lead to cost savings. However, be sure you use them before they expire, as supplements have a shelf life.
d. Discounts & Promotions: Keep an eye out for discounts, promotions, or special offers from reputable retailers or online stores. This can provide an opportunity to buy quality supplements at a reduced cost.
e. Generic vs. Branded Supplements: Generic or store-brand supplements can be more budget-friendly compared to well-known brand names. Check the label to ensure they meet quality and purity standards.
10. Customer Reviews & Recommendations
Reading customer reviews and seeking recommendations from healthcare professionals or trusted sources can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness and quality of a particular supplement.
11. Storage & Expiry
Properly store your calcium supplements according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Check the expiration date and avoid using expired products.
In conclusion, calcium supplements can be a valuable addition to your daily routine, especially if you have difficulty meeting your calcium needs through diet alone. However, it’s crucial to make informed choices based on your requirements and preferences. Always consult a healthcare provider for guidance on calcium supplementation especially if you have underlying health conditions or take other medications. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific health needs.
Top 5 calcium supplements:
Quick tips for using calcium supplements effectively:
1. Calcium supplements are best absorbed when taken with meals. This helps the body utilize calcium more efficiently.
2. Avoid taking calcium with antibiotics, iron supplements, and high blood pressure medications since calcium can affect their absorption.
3. If you require more than one dose per day, split them up, split them for improved absorption and reduced side effects like constipation.
4. Adequate water intake aids in the absorption of calcium. Ensure you are well-hydrated, especially when taking your supplement.
5. Avoid calcium supplements with high-fiber or oxalate-rich foods (e.g., spinach) as it may hinder calcium absorption.
6. Opt for smaller, frequent calcium doses rather than a large dose all at once since your body can absorb only a limited amount of calcium at one time.
7. If you experience gastrointestinal discomfort or constipation, try different forms of calcium or take supplements with added magnesium, which can help alleviate these issues.
8. Too much calcium can lead to side effects like kidney stones and interfere with the absorption of other essential minerals. Stay within the recommended daily limits.
Disclaimer: Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or doctor. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.
(The article is written by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)
1. Calcium Fact Sheet for Consumers. NIH. Available online: https://ods.od.nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/calcium-consumer.pdf
2. Calcium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. NIH. Available online: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
3. Calcium Carbonate. NIH. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562303/
4. Sheth B, Prabhakar SA, Pawar P, et al. Calcium prescription by Indian orthopaedic surgeons: A survey and a review of the literature. J Clin Orthop Trauma. 2021 May; 16: 292–298. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7972954/