Editor’s note: This post is brought to you by Creamy Bites.

For a long time, we’ve been told that calcium consumption is not only good, but necessary: to build strong bones when we are growing, maintain them as we grow older, and reduce fracture risk. We’ve empowered ourselves by eating well, and counseling others to do the same. We’ve acquired the knowledge we need to keep our bones strong and make sure our children grow up strong. We’ve followed the advice of the U.S. Surgeon General (last updated in 2012) and learned some pretty interesting facts about calcium:

  • Most people don’t get enough calcium, especially young people between ages 9 and 18, post-menopausal women, and men over 70, according to the National Institutes of Health.
  • There are a lot of different sources of calcium supplements, and not all of them are the same.
  • Calcium should be taken with vitamin D, because vitamin D facilitates absorption.
  • The body can typically only absorb up to 500 mg of calcium at a time, so it’s a good idea to take calcium supplements twice a day.

NIH Recommendations for Adequate Calcium Intake from All Sources

NIH Recommendations for Adequate Calcium Intake from All Sources Table


Diet, Supplements, or Both?

Conventional wisdom suggests that consuming foods and beverages high in calcium is the best way to meet the body’s calcium needs. In general, including calcium-rich foods and beverages as part of a healthy, balanced, nutrient-diverse diet is prudent. However, all evidence shows that Americans, on average, do not even meet the lower end of the RDA requirement. In fact, the average woman over the age of 40 has a calcium intake of less than 50% of the RDA (Blank). Equally alarming, 60% of 6-to-11-year-olds and 70% of 12-to-19-year-olds don’t get enough calcium (Greer).

Besides the fact that people tend to overestimate their calcium consumption, other factors lower the amount of calcium that is taken in and absorbed. As children reach puberty, they tend to decrease their calcium intake, opting for soft drinks in lieu of milk or other calcium-containing beverages. In addition, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements at NIH, humans only absorb 30% of the calcium in food—and certain foods that contain high levels of phytic acid or oxalic acid bind to calcium and impair its absorption. These foods are healthy and part of a balanced diet, so avoiding things like spinach and nuts is not the best way to increase actual calcium intake. The best strategy, it turns out, is to combine diet and supplements.

Foods that Decrease Calcium Absorption

Foods that Decrease Calcium Absorption Table


Calcium Citrate Works

Here’s the reality: According to the National Institutes of Health, most people are not getting the calcium they need to build and maintain strong bones and reduce their risk of fracture. As noted above, the NIH is especially concerned about young people ages 9-18, postmenopausal women and men over the age of 70.

One solution is calcium citrate supplements, twice a day, in 500-mg doses, combined with vitamin D3. This is enough to close the “calcium gap” in most people with average diets. The fact is, calcium citrate is the most readily absorbed form of calcium, and it can be taken with or without food. As such, it is also excellent for people with achlorhydria, inflammatory bowel disease and absorption disorders.

Of course, as with any essential supplement, adherence is always a concern. That‘s why a good way to take calcium citrate and vitamin D3 is with individually packaged Calcet® Creamy Bite chews. The taste factor is particularly important for children, but adults also enjoy a healthy treat.
Calcet Creamy Bites combine 500 mg of elemental calcium from calcium citrate with 400 IUs of vitamin D3 to further enhance absorption. And since they’re available in creamy lemon and chocolate fudge, most people, adults and kids included, enjoy eating them. Twice a day is all it takes.
So continue to help your patients get over the confusion and counsel them to take their calcium citrate/vitamin D3 supplement. And help close the calcium gap with Creamy Bites.

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References and Recommended Reading

Blank DM et al. Lancet. 1996;348:1535-41.
Greer FR et al. Pediatrics. 117;78-85.
US Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis.What it means to you. DHHS. Office of the Surgeon General, 2012. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/SGR/surgeon_generals_report.asp. Accessed April 3, 2014.
National Institutes of Health.Office of Dietary Supplements.Calcium Fact Sheet. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/. Accessed April 3, 2014.
Contributed by MDC Scientific Team