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Young People Get Osteoporosis Too 

Butterfly1b1  CHOICES IN CALCIUMButterfly1b5

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• Calcium Q & A • calcium supplements • choices in calcium • calcium-rich foods •

Calcium intake is the major therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis -- and at times other supplementation is used in conjunction with calcium. Someone with kidney or liver damage may need a special form of vitamin D, available by prescription which is needed for the absorption of calcium from the small intestine. Postmenopausal women may need estrogen therapy which has been shown to be useful for prevention of osteoporosis and is frequently advocated for its treatment. 


Many types of calcium supplements are available without a doctor's prescription. In order to determine if a supplement is needed, a comparison should be made of recommended dietary allowance (RDA) values and current dietary calcium. The RDA of calcium for adults over the age of 19 is 800 mg per day. For teenagers pregnant women and for those breast feeding the RDA is 1,200 mg per day. For teenagers who are pregnant, the RDA is 1,600 mg. For infants to children up to age of 10, the RDA is 400-800 mg. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has made separate recommendations of 1,000 mg of calcium per day for premenopausal women and postmenopausal women taking estrogen. The NIH recommends 1,500 mg of calcium per day for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen. 

The main difference between the calcium supplements are availability with or without vitamin D, the chemical compound the calcium is paired with, the amount of elemental calcium and their dosage form. The amount of actual or elemental calcium differs based on the from of the calcium. For example, calcium carbonate contains 40% elemental calcium while calcium gluconate contains 9% calcium That means that 1,000 mg of calcium carbonate contains 400 mg of calcium, yet 1,000 mg of calcium gluconate would contain just 90 mg of calcium. It is very important to read the label to be certain of how much elemental calcium is in the product. Different dosage forms are also available there are pills, chewable tablets, suspension, solutions and powders. 

The daily amount of calcium supplement needed will depend on the individual and whether the supplement is being used as its name implies -- as a supplement, or for treatment of severe calcium depletion. Those with calcium depletion should be monitored by a physician. Their requirements may far exceed the normal supplement dose of 1,000 mg of calcium per day. It's important not to self-medicate with high doses of calcium without a doctor's approval because calcium can be toxic. Large amounts consumed as supplements and or antacids may lead to kidney stones. If an antacid containing calcium is taken on a daily basis, read the label to see how much calcium is consumed per day. 


If kidney damage is present or there is a family history of kidney stones, an aluminum-containing antacid should be used and a doctor consulted before starting any calcium therapy. 

A description of any type of medication wouldn't be complete without mentioning side effects. Common side effects associated with calcium are constipation and gas. If large amounts of calcium are required, splitting the daily dose into three or four separate doses not only improves the efficiency of calcium absorption but also diminishes side effects. 

Calcium in the form of a supplement, antacid, or food can hinder absorption of certain antibiotics like tetracycline and cipro, making the antibiotics less effective. The best way to avoid this interaction is to separate the calcium from the antibiotic dose by at least two hours. If you are uncertain about the need for a calcium supplement, you should talk to your doctor or dietitian. Calcium supplements should be reserved for those with low calcium intake or those who are at risk of developing osteoporosis. If a supplement is needed, remember to read labels and ask a pharmacist for help in deciding what kind of supplement would be most appropriate.