A Calcium Breakdown: From the Best Forms to What Else it Does For Your Health
When it comes to bone loss, we’re all guilty of taking an “out of sight, out of mind” approach at some point in our lives — our 30s and 40s, maybe even in our 50s and 60s. The truth is, until you’ve had a fall or an injury that turns your world upside down and compromises your daily life in a big way, it’s hard to appreciate how strong bones support your entire body in everything you do.
Generally speaking, even in the world of conventional medicine, there seems to be a lot of contradictory advice around the best ways to prevent bones loss. Consensus on the need for impact exercises and certain nutrients like magnesium and vitamin D for bone health remains strong, but people remain wary of other nutrients needed for strong bones. Vitamin K, for example, is often frowned upon for many in their 60s — often due to a contraindication with a popular drug — and many calcium supplements have come under scrutiny over the last several years (more on that in a bit).
Drinking Milk Isn’t Enough: Bone Up Your Health Today
As we age, bone loss becomes a rapidly growing concern, with osteoporosis affecting more than half of Americans age 50 and older. But too many people make the mistake of thinking that bone health isn’t a problem until they’re older. And, while women are especially vulnerable to bone thinning, due to their particular hormonal makeup, men are not exempt. The truth is, the sooner you start protecting your bones from the ravages of aging, the better. Bone mass loss begins earlier than you may think — around age 35. After that, your bones will deteriorate, unless you take the necessary steps to protect them. And thankfully there are some clinically researched natural ways you can do so.
Did You Know Calcium Isn’t Just for Bones?
Calcium is the most common mineral in the body. Calcium may be best known for its connection to strong bones, but it can do a whole lot more for you health, too. What many people don’t know is that calcium is needed throughout your entire body. In fact, your bones act as storage sites to provide calcium to each and every organ in your body, making your calcium levels critical for your overall health, not just your bones.
And when it comes to upping your calcium levels through supplementation, perhaps the most important factor boils down to taking the proper form, which is an aspect that too many people overlook. You see, what many don’t realize is that grabbing the first calcium supplement you see on the shelf oftentimes does much more harm than good.
But have no fear, we’re hear to help. We’re breaking down for you everything you need to know about choosing the most effective calcium supplement, and how this vital mineral can help take your overall health to new heights for years to come.
Why People Are Talking About Calcium
Back in 2012, calcium supplements received some bad press after researchers found that taking the wrong type of of the essential mineral in excessive doses posed dangers to heart health and increased risk for atherosclerosis. This left the medical community and health officials perplexed, especially since several studies have shown that adequate calcium intake — from both foods and supplements — reduced risk of heart attack.
There seemed to be no question that having sufficient calcium is the only way to protect bone health and that nearly everyone over the age of 35 needed to supplement. In fact, people of all ages can be affected by osteoporosis — so what was the answer?
Well, as they discovered, and later emphasized to the public (though, not loudly enough, in our opinion), is that there are three critical factors to take into account when choosing the best way to supplement your diet with calcium: the form, the time of day you take it, and the other nutrients you’re getting with it.
Why is this information critical? Because…
Getting the Right Amount of Calcium in the Right Form Can Make or Break Your Bones
With 35 million American women and 17 million men suffering from low bone density, there’s no question that having sufficient levels of calcium is the only way to protect your bones before it’s too late. And although you probably understand by now that calcium is a critical nutrient for bone health, you may not know how much your should be taking or which form of it.
The effectiveness of the calcium supplement you’re taking directly depends on its form, and the risks of getting too little can have even more serious consequences — think: breaking a hip. And did you know studies show that breaking a hip (a common occurrence among the elderly) more than doubles your risk of death in the following year? That’s why it’s so critical that you take bone protection seriously.
So What Else Does Calcium Do?
As mentioned, the benefits of this essential mineral don’t stop with bone health. Your heart, nerves and muscles all need calcium to work properly, too. And some research shows that the mineral even offers protection against diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
In fact, calcium has a surprisingly long list of health benefits, including:
- Regulating blood pressure
- Protecting against diabetes
- Lowering the risk of cancer
- Assisting in blood clotting
- Transmitting nerve impulses
- Maintaining regular heart rhythm
- Decreasing the risk of kidney stones
- Helping with weight management
If you’re running on low stores of calcium, weak and brittle bones won’t be the signal until it’s too late. Muscle cramps, memory loss, tingling in the hands and feet, and dry, brittle hair and nails are other red flags that you are probably low on calcium.
Guide to Choosing the Best Calcium Supplement
Sure, it’s convenient to grab a bottle of calcium supplement from the supermarket shelf. But you might as well eat chalk — seriously!
And those inexpensive supplements can do much more harm than good. Experts now warn that if you’re taking the wrong kind of calcium — or missing out on calcium’s much-needed co-factors — your efforts could severely backfire. When that happens, calcium accumulates in your body and tissues (this is why some studies found calcium caused hardening of arteries in the heart — it was because these people were simply taking the wrong form). You really don’t want calcium hardening your blood vessels, arteries, brain tissue, joints and other places where it can be deadly!
In fact, it’s recommend to steer clear of any calcium supplement that contains only calcium. Without the necessary co-factors, you might as well throw your money— and your health— out a window.
As mentioned earlier, there are a few important things to consider: the form, the time of day you’re going to take it, and the other nutrients you’re getting along with calcium.
Here’s what to look for when buying an absorbable, effective calcium supplement:
- The form matters. You’ve probably heard supplement makers go back and forth for years, some saying that calcium carbonate is the best, most absorbable form and others touting calcium citrate as the best. Here’s the definitive honest answer: They’re both great! What makes one better than the other is when you take it!
Here’s the breakdown of the best times to take specific forms of calcium to help it all make sense:
- Calcium Carobonate:
- Oftentimes the form of choice for premium calcium supplements, calcium carbonate is 40% calcium by weight and MUST be taken with food to be fully absorbed.
- Calcium Citrate:
- This form is 20% calcium by weight and does not need to be taken with food. But the lower percentage of calcium by weight is why you often see this form offered in higher doses.
- Eggshell Calcium:
- Eggshell calcium is a leading-edge form of calcium carbonate. Also 40% calcium by weight, it contains unique transporter proteins that make it a remarkable 20% more absorbable than other forms of calcium, making it especially beneficial for anyone looking to protect bone health. A product containing 800 mg of eggshell calcium is ideal.
- Calcium needs co-factors, too. Without the proper co-factors, such as vitamins D3 and K2, which transfer calcium out of your bloodstream and into your bones, where it should be, calcium will build up in all the wrong places. And vitamin D works hand-in-hand with calcium to promote stronger bones and better calcium absorption. Choosing a supplement with these essential vitamins can amp up the effects of the calcium by increasing the absorption of calcium from food and supplements to help slow overall bone loss and maintain optimal bone health.
- Trace minerals in the right ratios. Magnesium, zinc, copper and boron, are also essential nutrients to take along with calcium. And be sure the calcium and magnesium you’re getting are in the ideal 2:1 dosage ratio (twice the amount of calcium as magnesium) for best results.
- Calcium fructoborate is also highly recommended, a clinically studied bone-building form of the essential trace mineral boron is ideal, as well as silica (to boost collagen) and inflammation-fighting herbs, like turmeric and ginger.
- For the best quality, purity and potency, look for a product made in the USA in an FDA-inspected facility to meet or exceed USP standards.
So What’s the Deal with Fosamax? Plus, Fosamax Alternatives
It’s important to know that you don’t have to succumb to taking dangerous osteoporosis medications called bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax. This seemingly lousy “solution” comes hardwired with a laundry list of severe side effects. It’s most common side effects include irritation of the esophagus and painful stomach ulcers. Additional serious side effects reported from use of Fosamax include loss of teeth, severe jaw bone problems (including death of the jaw bone), as well as bone, joint and muscle pain. Moreover, new research has found that taking Fosamax for more than five years may actually weaken your bones. Plain and simple, hazardous solutions like these are simply covering up a major underlying problem: a calcium deficiency.
Thankfully, you can take long-term, natural measures to prevent your bones from reaching the point where you need these risky drugs by following our guide above to choosing a high-quality, exceedingly absorbable calcium supplement.
Wondering what other risky medications actually have effective all-natural counterparts? Check out our article Natural Alternatives to 10 of the Most Common Drugs.