How to Choose a Calcium Supplement – Ten Misunderstandings of Supplementing Calcium
Q1 : When choosing a calcium supplement, is it better to choose the product with more calcium content?
A1 : The answer is “wrong”! Calcium has many forms, the highest calcium content is calcium carbonate, but its clinical effect is not satisfactory. Besides, only 20% of human bones is calcium, others include many "key nutrients”, such as minerals, trace elements, type 1 collagen, bone protein, and growth factors. Therefore, it is not enough to take calcium alone or to select a calcium supplement by calcium content!
Let’s use building a house as an example. The general calcium supplement could only provide you the bricks. Of course, without other materials this structure alone is not going to be stable enough, and it is easy to be at risk if an earthquake occurs. What the human body needs is not just bricks, but also steel bars and cement, etc., and these together forms the so-called "key nutrients". The only source of calcium that can provide these "key nutrients" is animal-derived biological calcium. Bovine bone calcium is the best choice.
Q2 : I found some suggestions online for selecting a calcium supplement by depending on the value of multiplying the calcium content and calcium absorption rate, is it correct?
A2：Not completely correct! The rate of absorption is often-misunderstood. Regarding to different human bodies, the nutrient absorption varies. In other words, when it comes to taking medicine or supplements, each person's gastrointestinal condition differs, so the absorption rate and efficacy will no doubt be affected. In addition, by the datas from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show calcium absorption is related to the content of a single intake, – the higher the single calcium intake, the lower the absorption rate. The optimal absorption rate is within a single intake 500 mg, so it is recommended to supplement calcium with multiple intakes. Therefore, calcium absorption cannot be presented as a "single number”, different conditions cause different effects.
Meanwhile, phytic acid and oxalic acid contained in caffeine, alcohol, natural plants or vegetables could also reduce the rate of calcium absorption.
Q3 : What are the advantages and disadvantages between different types of calcium?
A3：Let’s use the following chart to explain :
Source of Calcium
Calcium Ion Content
Natural Bovine Bone Calcium (Microcrystalline Hydroxyapatite Compound)
Animal sources of calcium. High bioavailability
Have proven by many clinical studies to be the optimal calcium source
Contains complete “key nutrients”, including a variety of minerals, trace elements, type 1 collagen, bone protein and growth factors
In addition to calcium, it also contains a variety of minerals
The form is also calcium carbonate and may cause flatulence
Lack of “key nutrients”
The cheapest source of calcium
Lack of "key nutrients”
May cause flatulence
Difficult to absorb by people with poor digestion
Suitable for people with poor digestion and absorption
Lack of "key nutrients"
Easy to absorb
Lack of "key nutrients"
May contain additional ingredients such as milk or yeast
Calcium Amino Acid Chelate
Easy to absorb
Lack of "key nutrients"
Low calcium content
Can be used as a source of non-acidic vitamin C
Lack of "key nutrients"
Low calcium content
Q4 : Based on some online news, taking calcium alone may have negative effects?
A4 : That’s right! Many studies, including a large-scale follow-up study for 219,059 men and 169,170 women for 12 years in 2013, a care study for women (Women Health Initiative; WHI) in 2011, a research aiming at 10,555 Finland’s females in 2009, and a published study for 23,980 subjects in 2012 by European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), showed the same result that taking calcium alone can cause a large amount of calcium ions accumulate in the bloodstream. In the long run, this could cause negative effects on the human body. The mean to prevent this potential risk is to take vitamin K2 with calcium at the same time. Therefore, taking calcium alone is not enough!
Q5 : Are the effect of vitamin K in calcium supplements the same?
A5 : Wrong! Vitamin K2 can be further divided into several different subtypes, the most important ones being MK-4 and MK-7. MK-7 is the optimal source of vitamin K, so the reputable manufacturers indicate the source completely. Under long-term consumption, the effect of vitamin K2 is 7-8 times than vitamin K1; thus, vitamin K2 is the best choice.
To achieve clinical efficacy, you need to consume at least 45 mcg of vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7; whereas you need to take 1500 mcg MK-4 for the equivalent potency. Clearly, MK-7 is thus the optimal source of vitamin K.
Q6 : The calcium citrate powder supplement I purchased contains 0.1 micrograms of vitamin K2. Is it effective?
A6 : Generally, in order to achieve the effect of regulating physiological function, you need to take vitamin K2 at least 45 micrograms daily. Per Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA), it is suggested that on average, adult women need 90 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K per day. Therefore, too little consumption cannot achieve the desired results. Consumers should pay attention to the supplement facts label on the package.
Q7 : When taking calcium supplements, in addition to vitamin K, are there any other nutrients should I take at the same time?
A7 : Yes, vitamin D can also promote calcium absorption, help the growth and development of bones and teeth and improve the release of bone calcium to maintain blood calcium balance. Vitamin K can accelerate bone calcification and regulate physiological functions. In addition, the mineral – magnesium is beneficial to the normal development of bones and teeth as well.
Calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium are the four key elements of a complete calcium supplement. When choosing a calcium supplement, you need to choose the one includes these four ingredients to achieve the best effectiveness.
Q8 : By Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA), it recommends to take 1000 mg calcium daily. What should I do if the calcium content of the supplement I take is not high enough?
A8 : A balanced diet is what people really need to stay healthy. We do not recommend to get calcium all by calcium supplements. Usually, the best option is to combine the balanced diet with dietary supplements. Foods rich in calcium include milk, cheese, dried fish, beans and leafy greens.
Generally speaking, the calcium contained in each milliliter of milk exceeds 1 mg, so the calcium contained in a glass of milk (240 ml) is about 260 mg. Drinking a glass of milk every day or eating calcium-rich food, and then pairing with a calcium supplement can help you reach the best effectiveness of calcium supplementation.
Q9 : Caffeine can affect calcium absorption. Should I stop drinking tea or coffee?
A9 : Under normal condition of diet, you should stop worrying so much. Caffeine in coffee or tea indeed increase calcium loss and reduce calcium absorption. However, according to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a cup of regular coffee (brewed coffee) could cause the loss of 2-3 mg calcium. To young women, an appropriate amount of coffee per day (about 1 cup of coffee or 2 cups of tea) should not cause severe effects.
Q10: What is the best time to take calcium? Before or after meals?
A10 : One of the main principles of taking calcium supplement is it must be within 500 mg at a time to maintain the optimal absorption rate. As a result, it is recommended to split up into several doses. As for the best time of taking calcium, in addition to taking it during the day, it is better to take it before bedtime as well. Due to the physiological role during night, calcium supplements can reach good efficacy. For the daytime calcium intake, just take it at a time suitable to you.
Q11: What are the principles of choosing a calcium supplement?
A11: Actually, to pick up the right calcium supplement is easy. Just pay attention to the following principles:
1). Natural sources will be better than chemical synthesis. Chemical synthesis is cheaper, it is relatively competitive in price, but the effect would be greatly suffered. Among natural-sourced calcium, the best one is the biological calcium obtained from animal-derived, because it contains "key nutrients."
2). As for the calcium source, bovine bone calcium is the top choice. Its ingredients contain the largest and most abundant key elements required by the human body, including minerals, trace elements, collagen, bone protein, and growth factors. It’s clinically proven as the best source of calcium supplements. There are many sources of bovine bone powder, New Zealand is the only source origin of BSE free in the world. New Zealand’s bovine bone powder is considered the highest and purest source, which is guaranteed by New Zealand government. Compared with the sources from other countries, it’s safe and trustworthy.
3). When choosing calcium supplements, remember there are four major elements: calcium, vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and mineral magnesium. When these four ingredients are taken at the same time, it would reach the optimal result of supplementing calcium.
4). In terms of the format, capsules are better than tablets. Capsules have less additives; on the contrary, tablets usually add additional excipients, adhesives, artificial colors and other chemicals. Taking nutritional supplements is for the sake of health, surely, the fewer the additives, the better. As for the powder form, many sugars or spices are often added in order to increase the taste, but it puts a burden on the human body. On the other hand, preservatives are often added to avoid microbial growth in the form of liquid calcium. Therefore, when choosing these two types of calcium, you’d better pay special attention to the supplement facts on the packaging.
5). Don't forget the purity verification when choosing a calcium supplement. Many foreign-imported brands may use their own purity report from manufacturers' to promote the products, but this is not credible! Only the inspection report provided by the third-party laboratory could present the credibility, including the testings of common heavy metals, microorganisms, and pesticide residues. Regardless of domestic or foreign brands, when you pick up a supplement, please remember to choose a brand that has been tested by third-party laboratories, which is considered to be safe.