Calcium citrate: benefits, side effects, dosage and interactions

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Calcium supplements are generally sold in the form of calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is a calcium salt that is easier to absorb but less effective than calcium carbonate. You may need to take more calcium citrate tablets to achieve your desired dose .

For those taking medications for heartburn or digestive problems, calcium citrate is usually the best option, as stomach acid is not necessary for absorption.

Calcium citrate is safe for most people as long as you don't take more than 2,500 milligrams a day. It is available without a prescription and is generally recommended in multiple doses (500 milligrams or less) for a total of 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams per day. Calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach or on an empty stomach at any time of the day.

Also know as

Calcium citrate (sometimes called tricalcium citrate) is found in the following foods :

  • Some Calcium-Fortified Orange Juice Brands
  • Citrakal
  • GNC Calcimate Plus 800
  • Solgar Calcium Citrate
  • TwinLab Calcium Citrate Caps
apugach / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

What is calcium citrate used for?

Calcium is an essential mineral that supports multiple body systems. You need to maintain adequate levels of calcium for your heart, nervous system, and muscles to function properly .

When you don't get enough calcium from outside sources like food or supplements, your body sinks into a bank of calcium stored in your bones to maintain blood levels. Over time, the removal of calcium from the bones weakens them and increases the risk of fractures .

In addition to bones, potential additional benefits of calcium supplementation include better blood pressure and weight loss. This is what the study says.

  • Blood pressure : Although the underlying mechanism is unclear, calcium has been linked to lower blood pressure in several studies. However, there is growing concern that the excess calcium in supplements could strengthen your arteries and put you at risk for heart disease.
  • Weight loss : Studies show that when people follow a low calorie diet, supplementation with calcium and vitamin D improves the rate of fat loss while maintaining muscle and bone mass .

As with many dietary supplements, taking in more calcium than we need is likely to do more harm than good. Instead of adding calcium citrate blindly, only buy a supplement if you know you're not getting enough food and drink.

Assessment of calcium intake

For those who have a limited intake of calcium-rich foods or have poor calcium absorption, supplementation with calcium citrate can help cover your dietary base. Possible causes of inadequate calcium intake can include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss surgery (such as gastric bypass)
  • Leaky gut syndrome / intestinal malabsorption

Calcium is important for people of all ages. Children and adolescents are still in the process of building their bones and must remember to get enough calcium. Seeing a healthcare professional to review your dietary habits can help determine if your intake is adequate.

For women over 50, screening for bone density is a good way to assess bone health. If you are unsure about meeting your calcium needs, make an appointment to speak with your dietitian to discuss whether supplements are needed .

Additional factors

You can get many of the health benefits associated with calcium citrate supplements simply by getting enough calcium from your diet. Foods high in calcium include :

  • Broccoli
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice, soy milk, and tofu or breakfast cereal
  • Cheese
  • chia seeds
  • Cow milk
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and turnip greens)
  • Canned salmon or sardines with bones
  • Yogurt

Consuming calcium along with vitamin D improves calcium absorption and bone health. Smoking , soda, and heavy alcohol use can weaken your bones, so remember to watch your overall health habits.

If you are interested in calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis, don't underestimate the importance of physical activity in maintaining bone strength. Regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and squatting, is essential for your bones. If your healthcare provider is ready to help you, consider adding resistance training to your routine. Remember, strong muscles support strong bones.

Possible side effects.

It may be best to take certain types of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and herbal supplements a few hours before or after taking calcium citrate. Specifically, iron or zinc supplements, antibiotics, and levothyroxine (thyroid medications) can interact with calcium supplements. Be sure to ask your pharmacist if you are not sure about possible interactions.

Adverse side effects of calcium citrate are rare, but can include the following .

  • Allergic reaction : facial swelling, hives, or difficulty breathing.
  • Digestive problems : upset stomach or constipation.
  • Serious side effects : bloating, nausea, vomiting, bone pain, confusion, increased thirst, increased or decreased urination.

If you have a history of kidney disease or kidney stones, cancer, high blood calcium levels, or parathyroid disease, talk to your doctor before taking calcium citrate supplements. When it comes to supplements, sometimes less is more. It is best to avoid taking doses higher than necessary to reduce the risk of negative side effects.

There is controversy about the benefits of calcium supplements. Some researchers suspect that calcium supplements are ineffective in reducing bone fractures and may cause other problems .

Possible dangers from too much extra calcium can include colon polyps, kidney stones, or even hardened arteries. For this reason, dietary calcium supplementation is generally preferable to supplementation.

Recommended dose

When it comes to calcium supplements, determining the exact dosage can be a bit confusing. This is because pure calcium (also called elemental calcium) is mixed with the filler to make supplemented tablets.

For example, calcium carbonate is made up of 60% carbonate and 40% elemental calcium. Calcium citrate is technically only 21% calcium. Read the label to determine how much pure calcium is in a tablet.

A 600-milligram calcium citrate tablet contains approximately 126 milligrams of elemental calcium.

The recommended calcium dose depends on age and gender. Please note that the following values represent the total daily intake from all sources (including food, beverages, and supplements).

  • 200 milligrams : from birth to 6 months
  • 260 milligrams : 7 to 12 months
  • 700 milligrams : 1-3 years
  • 1,000 milligrams : 4 to 8 years old and 19 to 50 years old, and men 51 to 70 years old.
  • 1200 milligrams : women over 50 and men over 70.
  • 1,300 milligrams : children 9 to 18 years old.

What to look for

Look for supplements with the USP label, which stands for United States Pharmacopoeia. This will ensure that your calcium supplement is highly soluble and meets certain quality standards .

Be careful with calcium supplements that contain any of the following ingredients, as they may be contaminated with toxic metals such as lead :

  • Bone-meal
  • Coral
  • Dolomite
  • Unrefined oyster shell

Get the word of drug information

Calcium citrate supplements can help you reach the recommended daily allowance, especially if you have difficulty absorbing calcium. For most people, you can get enough calcium just from food.

A healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity is essential to building and maintaining strong bones. If you are concerned about osteoporosis or calcium intake, ask your doctor if a calcium citrate supplement is right for you.

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