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Calcium and Osteoporosis-Is your Money Wasted on Calcium Supplements?

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Canadians are checking the labels on their calcium supplements after new information suggests that up to 78% of leading calcium supplements go unabsorbed by the body – flushing the health benefit, and consumers’ hard earned money down the drain. Calcium and osteoporosis prevention are believed to go hand in hand but what many people don’t realize is calcium alone isn’t enough.

In women over the age of 45, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, heart attack and breast cancer. Sadly, only 44% of those people will return home. The balance, go on to long-term care facilities or rehabilitation centers, and a staggering 23% will die within a year.

In Canada, osteoporosis causes 70-90% of the 30,000 hip fractures annually.

At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men are destined to suffer from a bone fracture due to osteoporosis during their lifetime at an estimated cost of $1.9 billion to the Canadian health care system annually. It’s therefore no wonder that it has become standard practice for the medical community to recommend calcium supplementation to their patients.

Calcium and Osteoporosis

And yet while researchers and the medical community agree that calcium supplementation is an important addition to Canadians’ daily diets, what is not widely understood is which calcium is the right calcium and is calcium alone enough?

Leading calcium supplements may contain wrong calcium

Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are both commonly used in supplement formulation by leading brands. The consensus, however, Calcium citrate can be taken with food or on an empty stomach whereas calcium carbonate is not as well absorbed on an empty stomach. It is better tolerated in that it is less likely to cause constipation or an upset stomach. For those who regularly take acid suppressants or have low stomach acid, calcium citrate is better absorbed. Some research suggests that calcium citrate offers superior absorption and bio- availability, and new evidence has shown that calcium citrate plays a superior role in protecting against bone loss when compared to other forms of calcium.

Magnesium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 essential for calcium absorption

Leading authorities suggest at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day in a comprehensive formula that includes 500 milligrams of magnesium. If magnesium is not present, calcium will not be properly deposited into bone and instead could deposit in soft tissue, causing kidney and gallstones, joint discomfort, as well as increased atherosclerotic plaque. Vitamin D3 and K2 are also needed along with calcium and magnesium to ensure adequate absorption.

Vitamin D3 has many health benefits but it’s essential to ensure adequate calcium absorption, bone mineralization and muscle function. A deficiency in this key vitamin is associated with decreased bone and muscle strength, resulting in higher risk of falls and fractures.

And the ability of vitamin D3 to increase calcium absorption is dependent on availability of vitamin K2.

Sherry Torkos, Registered Pharmacist, health author and fitness expert says that a quick check of the calcium section in your local grocery or drug store will reveal that while the majority of calcium products include either calcium citrate or magnesium, few do so in combination with one another and even fewer include vitamin D and K2.

Canadians at a disadvantage for natural vitamin D

People get most of their vitamin D through sun exposure, and only a limited amount from diet. For Canadians however, living north of the equator puts us at a distinct disadvantage due to the limited amount of sun exposure during winter months. Supplemental vitamin D is therefore strongly recom- mended by experts, even more so after the age of 50.

Torkos stresses the importance of diet and exercise in addition to a high quality supplement for optimal bone health.

The final prescription on calcium and osteoporosis prevention – Read the labels of calcium supplements carefully. Select one that includes calci- um citrate, magnesium, vitamin D3 and K2 in a single formula.

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