1. The ‘who, how and why’ of calcium supplementation
  2. When and how to take your calcium supplement?

The ‘who, how and why’ of calcium supplementation
Calcium is one of the most important minerals and electrolytes in the body, and it is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In particular, it assists the body with the hardening and growth of its bones when bone cells are being built.

It is important to note that calcium is used by the body on a daily basis. Approximately 150 - 200 mg of calcium is excreted and lost by your body a day. As there are only two sources of calcium that can be used by your body, namely:

  • Calcium from an internal source i.e. from your bones; and
     
  • Calcium from an external source i.e. from a calcium supplement or your diet,
it is essential that you supplement your diet if your intake is insufficient.

Thus, one needs to make a concerted effort not only to replace the calcium losses from one’s body, but also to provide the body with extra calcium for building strong bones and teeth.

Accordingly, it is important to ensure that your diet contains foodstuffs that will give you adequate calcium intake (see table below), or that you supplement your diet with calcium supplements. Calcium supplementation has the benefit that your calcium intake can be managed scientifically and cost-effectively.

Why we need calcium supplementation?
Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones” and is a disease in which the density and quality of bone is reduced. This leads to a weakness of the skeleton and an increased risk of fractures. It is also known as the “silent disease” as it is generally not associated with any signs or symptoms until a fracture occurs.

Until the age of about 30-35 (the age at which peak bone mass is achieved) bone is being broken down slower than it is being rebuilt. After this age the action of the bone cells responsible for making the new bone tissue becomes slower relative to those re-absorbing the old tissue. This in turn leads to negative changes in bone structure. Fractures occur when the bone becomes porous and brittle, which can be extremely painful and debilitating.

The best predictor of osteoporosis is via bone density measurement. However, as much as 40% of bone tissue must be lost before it is revealed. Women are ten times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men. It affects one in three women and one in five men over the age of  50.

Who needs calcium supplementation?
Calcium supplementation is indicated where dietary intake is insufficient or during periods of increased demand such as in -

  • childhood, particularly, between the ages of 4-7, 9-12 and during puberty;
     
  • pregnancy and breastfeeding;
     
  • women in early menopause (below the age of 45 or suffering from an oestrogen deficiency);
     
  • athletes;
     
  • a diet deficient in calcium i.e. due to allergy or lactose intolerance;
     
  • where there is a family history of osteoporosis;
     
  • people with a small frame and thin build;
     
  • the use of the following medicines:
    excessive thyroid hormones,
    aluminium hydroxide antacids;
    corticosteroids,
    anti-convulsant therapy,
    certain loop diuretics, and
    certain cancer therapies;

     
  • suffering from certain diseases:
    e.g. Cushing’s syndrome,
    thyrotoxicosis,
    parathyroid hormone overactivity,

    rheumatoid arthritis,
    anorexia nervosa and
    amenorrhoea;

     
  • inactivity due to:
    arthritis,
    fracture,
    severe joint disease.

 


The amount of calcium you require on a daily basis varies according to your life stage. The following table indicates the recommended daily allowance of calcium according to these various life stages:

Prevention is a priority!
Osteoporosis can be prevented and the main intention behind preventative action is to stimulate bone formation and reduce bone loss.

The following recommendations may help:
 

  • increase your intake of calcium by taking a supplement or by eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and dairy products;
     
  • partake in a regular routine of weight-bearing exercises;
     
  • limit alcohol consumption and smoking.

Prevention should start at an early age. In fact, the earlier the better! All women should supplement their diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and should start bone building therapy by the age of 35.

When and how to take your calcium supplement?

  • Calcium appears to be well absorbed at night (it is also thought that it promotes a sound sleep).
     
  • The maximum amount the body can absorb in one dose is 500 mg of elemental calcium. So 1000 mg of elemental calcium per day should be taken in divided doses, at least, 4 hours apart.
     
  • Fibre and antacids may interfere with calcium absorption.
     
  • Caffeine and carbonated soft drinks may also be linked to increased calcium losses.
     
  • Always be aware of the amount of “Elemental calcium” contained in calcium supplements e.g. 1000 mg of calcium carbonate is equivlent to 400 mg of elemental calcium. Your choice of calcium should contain approximately 500 mg of elemental calcium.

Calcium supplementation to suit everyone’s needs!
As calcium supplementation is a long term therapy, it is important to choose a product that suits your lifestyle, eating habits, state of health and budget.

Various scientific studies have shown that organic salts outperform inorganic sources with regard to their relative bioavailability. Calcium carbonate is the most widely used calcium salt, presumably due to its high calcium content and cost-effectiveness.

There are a number of different calcium sources commercially available for use in food and dietary supplements:

  • inorganic salts, such as calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate (which need to be taken with food); and
     
  • organic salts such as calcium citrate, calcium lactate, calcium lactate gluconate and calcium gluconate (which can be taken without food).

Nutritional information:
Calcium is essential for maintaining and building healthy bones and teeth.

Vitamin D helps with the absorption of the calcium.

Magnesium assists in muscle and nerve functioning and can help to prevent/alleviate muscle cramping.   

Essential Vitamins and Minerals help to maintain your health and energy levels.

The Georen Calcium Range includes the following:

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