Osteoporosis Calcium Importance

The mineral component of the bone matrix is intimately related to the levels of the minerals in the bloodstream.

The regulation of blood mineral levels is such that if a person has a calcium deficiency, the bones surrender calcium to maintain the amounts needed in the blood for other body functions, such as heart muscle stimulation and nerve impulse transmission. Increased amounts of phosphorus from sources such as carbonated beverages, fast foods, meat, and preservatives can contribute to a calcium deficiency by lowering the available blood calcium. In osteoporosis, the bones begin to deteriorate due to calcium deficiency as a result of the body’s efficiency in maintaining mineral balance in the blood.

Most commonly a loss in bone density is associated with the changes women experience during menopause. The decreased hormone levels affect the calcium balance in the blood resulting in bone mass loss.

Calcium imbalance can also happen if other endocrine disorders are present in either male or female patients. The endocrine system controls the levels of the hormone calcitonin, which, in turn, affects the level of calcium in the body.

In addition to menopause and endocrine disorders, kidney injuries or malfunction, vitamin deficiencies, and steroid use are also known causes of osteoporosis.

Calcium Supplements

Dietary calcium is by far the best method of obtaining the mineral, but it can be difficult to get all you need just from the foods you eat. This is where calcium supplements are useful.

A wide variety of supplements are available to the public. However, research has shown that not all supplements contain comparable amounts of elemental calcium. For example calcium gluconate-based supplements only contain nine percent of the calcium element, whereas calcium carbonate contains approximately forty percent. This is how the different types measure up.

  • calcium carbonate: 40%
  • calcium phosphate: 31%
  • calcium citrate: 21%
  • calcium lactate: 13%
  • calcium gluconate: 9%.

Calcium Absorption

Not all of the calcium naturally occurring in foods or provided in supplements is absorbed. Taking small amounts of calcium at a time, rather than your entire daily requirement in one sitting, can help increase absorption. Vitamin D helps increase absorption of calcium rich foods and calcium supplements. It is estimated that the maximum dose of calcium that can be absorbed at one time is 500 mg.

Another thing to consider is that sufficient stomach acid is required for adequate calcium absorption. Therefore, supplements should be taken towards the end of a meal when the pH of the stomach is optimal.

Resources

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. (2004). Building strong bones: It takes a lifetime. AHRP brochure.

Harvard School of Public Health. (nd). Calcium and milk.

Marchigiano, G. (1999). Calcium intake in midlife women: One step in preventing osteoporosis. Orthopaedic Nursing,11-20.

McCormick, C.C. (nd). Calcium and osteoporosis: A weak link. Cornell Cooperative Extension: Food and Nutrition.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (nd). Strategies for osteoprosis.