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Your choice of calcium

WHILE most nutritionists claim that we are able to obtain the majority of our nutrients from food, they are in agreement that calcium has to be supplemented especially if one is lactose- intolerant or sensitive to dairy produce.

Calcium is the first nutrient approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States for the prevention of a specific disease -- osteoporosis.

There are many forms of calcium supplement available and the absorption and utilisation of each form vary, which may cause confusion as to which type is a better calcium supplement.

It all boils down to the physiological composition of the consumer. The most popular forms of calcium are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.

Calcium carbonate is the cheapest form of calcium. Given to older people with low stomach acid content, it will only yield four per cent of calcium versus 22 per cent in people with normal stomach secretions.

Calcium absorption is also affected if people are on long-term antacids to reduce their stomach acid secretion. Some companies market their calcium as a more natural form such as oyster-shell calcium which really is just calcium carbonate.

Calcium citrate, on the other hand, is considered a more superior calcium form due to its better solubility and absorption.

In order to be absorbed, calcium has to be made available in the ionic form or elemental form and this is why stomach acid is important to release bound calcium in food.

Reliable brands of calcium will always stipulate the actual amount of elemental calcium.

For example, 1,000mg of calcium citrate only provide 220mg elemental calcium. An adult needs 1,000-1,200mg elemental calcium which is equivalent to 4-5 tablets of 1,000mg calcium citrate.

While calcium is the main component for healthy bones, other minerals such as magnesium, boron, silica, phosphorous, zinc, manganese and copper are part of the bone structure.

Magnesium is equally important as calcium in the prevention of osteoporosis as it alters calcium metabolism and regulates the amount of calcium the body.

Studies have shown that women prone to osteoporosis are also low in magnesium, which is needed for the proper function of vitamin D.

Without vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle or deformed such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone that directs calcium from the blood into the bone and prevents the mineral's excretion from the bone.

In fact, severe cases of osteoporosis are treated with vitamin D in the form of calcitriol.

Zinc is important for growth and development. It is found that men with osteoporosis suffer with low zinc levels.

To get most out of your calcium supplement, read the label before buying.

Ensure that it is in the citrate form and in combination with other bone-enhancing nutrients such as magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin D.

Pregnant women, nursing mothers, adolescents and growing children may need to supplement with calcium as they need more calcium than that which can be obtained from calcium-rich food.

Food sources rich in calcium are dark green leafy vegetables, kale, broccoli, seeds, pulses, bones of soft fish such as sardines and dairy produce.

Magnesium-rich food sources include seeds, nuts, avocados, spinach, wholegrain and oysters.



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