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Tums for osteoporosis

Build up your fragile bones

Lack of calcium, the most abundant mineral in your body, is one of the leading nutritional deficiencies in North America today. But there's any easy way to overcome this critical shortfall. Take Tums.

That's right, Tums -- the little mint- or fruit-flavored tablet you chew when you have an upset stomach. Tums and many other antacids are made from calcium carbonate because the carbonate neutralizes stomach acid. Carbonate is cheap and easy to find when it's combined with calcium, and important nutrient that can help prevent osteoporosis and a host of other diseases.

In fact, calcium helps your brain and nerve cells work together, and there is even research linking senility and Alzheimer's disease with calcium.

The importance of calcium

"Low calcium intakes have been implicated not just in bone disease, but in obesity, high blood pressure, a variety of cancers -- the list is almost so broad it's hard to believe," says Robert P. Heaney, an internationally recognized expert in bone biology and calcium nutrition at Creighton University's Osteoporosis Research Center.

And a brand-new Surgeon General's Report makes a clear statement that there's a huge gap between the amount of calcium Americans take in versus recommended levels.

"Well over half the US public is not getting the calcium intake it ought to have," Heaney, who is both a medical doctor and a professor of medicine, points out. "For certain age ranges, and particularly for women, that could be as much as 85 percent. In a sense, you could just assume you're not getting enough."

There are no outward signs of a simple calcium deficiency. When your body is not taking in enough calcium, it's pulled from your bones to maintain normal nerve and muscle functions. That makes your bones weaker and more likely to break.

The best place to get more calcium is from food, Heaney says. That's because people with low calcium also tend to be low on other nutrients as well. "A low calcium intake is a marker of a poor diet. It's OK to fix that with a calcium supplement, but then you're not fixing the rest of the problem. You need good nutrition on multiple fronts in order to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and cancer of the colon and so on," he says.

The primary source of calcium is dairy products. If you aren't drinking at least a couple of glasses of milk a day because you are lactose intolerant, a vegan vegetarian, or some other reason, you might want to take a supplement.

How it works

The calcium carbonate in Tums is the same ingredient used in many tablets sold as calcium supplements. It's effective, cheap, easy to get, and tastes better than other chemical compounds.

You can use other antacids, but be sure and check the ingredients. Other substances, like magnesium carbonate and aluminum hydroxide gel, might actually be better antacids, but unless and antacid contains calcium, it won't help your bones.

You get the best results when you chew a single 400 or 500mg tablet two or three times a day. That's because calcium isn't easily absorbed, and absorption goes down when you take larger doses.

However, Heaney says it doesn't hurt to take a large dose, like, 1,000mg, because the more you take it, the more you absorb. For instance, you may absorb 30 percent of a 100mg dose, but only 15 percent of 1,000mg. That's still 150mg against only 30 mg from the more efficient dose.

How much do you need ?

"You probably need to absorb a couple hundred milligrams of calcium a day," advises Heaney. that means taking in 1,000 to 1,500mg.

This is particularly important with older people because calcium absorption drops off as you age. calcium absorption can be as high as 60 percent in babies and young children, but it slowly drops to 15 to 20 percent in adulthood. After age 50, it's even lower.

Other factors that increase risk for osteoporosis and the need for calcium include being female, thin, or inactive, smoking, and excessive use of alcohol. It's also more important for post-menopausal women to get enough calcium because the lack of estrogen increases bone loss.

Just don't overdo it. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level for calcium is 2,500mg a day, so consider your entire dietary intake -- including fortified foods -- before adding supplements.

Too much calcium can cause kidney problems and interfere with the absorption of other minerals in your body. Other side effects include gas, bloating, and constipation. If side effects are a problem for you, take your supplement with meals.



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