Calcium is one of the most plentiful minerals in our body. Most of it – about 99 per cent – is stored in our bones and teeth, where it is essential for their structure. Calcium is not just important for... Read more
Calcium is one of the most plentiful minerals in our body. Most of it – about 99 per cent – is stored in our bones and teeth, where it is essential for their structure. Calcium is not just important for bones and teeth, however – it also has vital roles in muscle and nerve function, for energy, for normal blood clotting, and even for our digestion. Because it’s the most plentiful mineral, we need quite a lot of it compared to most other minerals – between around 800 to 1000 mg a day.
Primary functions of Calcium
How much calcium do we need?
The nutrient reference value for calcium in the UK is 800 mg for adults. Nutrient reference values refer to the amount needed to ensure that the needs of nearly all the population (97.5%) are being met. The tolerable upper level for daily intake for adults is set at 2500 mg; however, it is not generally advised to take more than 1000mg in supplement form.
Deficiency signs and symptoms*
Calcium levels have to be very tightly regulated in the blood to keep us alive. This means that – as mentioned above – if we aren’t consuming enough calcium, the bones will give up their stores to maintain the right level in the blood. As a result, the main consequences of calcium deficiency will be weakened bones and potentially osteoporosis.
The primary symptom of weakening bones or osteoporosis is fractures.
If blood calcium levels do fall low – which may be due to another condition such as lack of parathyroid hormone production, poor kidney function or vitamin D deficiency – then symptoms can be many and varied, including anxiety, palpitations, numbness and cramping, insomnia, pain and cognitive impairment (memory, reasoning, learning, etc.).
*If you experience any of these symptoms, please consult your doctor or health practitioner.
The best food sources of calcium include:
Forms and bioavailability / What to look for when buying a supplement
When looking at calcium supplements, it’s important to note that some forms of calcium are more absorbable than others.
As general advice, we would recommend choosing citrate, gluconate, bisglycinate (chelated calcium) or whole food calcium from seaweed or algae as the best forms.
Which other minerals and vitamins work with calcium?
It’s important to note that calcium does not work in isolation and doesn’t build healthy bones on its own. Here are some of the other important nutrients we need for our bones.
The main point here is that a generally nutrient-rich diet is a better way to support our bones rather than focusing on calcium-rich foods; and if you’re looking for a bone support supplement, it’s best to make sure you’re getting good levels of the three main nutrients described above together with your calcium. (See the separate articles on all of these three nutrients for more information.)
Dosages: Lifestyle Labs’ recommendations
Adults: Calcium supplements for adults typically provide between 300 mg and 1,000 mg in a full daily dose. This may depend on the form of the calcium: calcium carbonate supplements tend to be towards the higher end of this range, and you may need more of it make sure you’re absorbing enough. But calcium as bisglycinate, gluconate, citrate, or ‘whole food’ calcium may provide just 400mg per daily dose – and because it’s better absorbed, most people don’t need to take any more than this. Each person’s ‘ideal’ amount can also be very dependent on how much they are getting in their food, and their individual health circumstances.
If you are taking a supplement that recommends a higher dose (e.g. 1000mg) then it is best to take no more than 500mg at one time, to support better absorption and reduce its impact on absorption of other minerals from food or supplements (see ‘Safety’ below).
Children: A children’s calcium supplement may contain around 200 to 300 mg of calcium, and more than this is not normally recommended unless on the advice of a healthcare practitioner.
If you are taking any medications or have any medical condition, please consult your healthcare practitioner before taking calcium.
It’s important to note that taking calcium at the same time as other minerals can interfere with their absorption. This applies especially to magnesium, zinc and iron. If you are taking any of these other minerals separately or as part of a multivitamin, it is advisable to take them at a different time of day to the calcium.
Bioavailable calcium as magnesium citrate or hydroxyappetite (bone meal), with vitamin D.