Calcium, All forms are DIFFERENT. Which one is for you?

Osteoporosis (Weak or brittle bones) is very common throughout the world, and more so in Asia, where intake of dairy products are low, and the overall body sizes are smaller compared to the western population.This is true especially for the elderly, and even more so for post menopausal women. Therefore apart from taking a healthy, balanced diet, calcium supplementation is very important if you want to keep osteoporosis at bay.

The Flower-like crystals in the picture above are actually calcium sulphate and calcium carbonate that precipitate out of the water and grow into crystals. We'll talk about Calcium carbonate in a little while.

2 well known facts about calcium that most people know:

1. We need about 1000mg of calcium per day for adults

2. Vitamin D is needed to "lock in" calcium into our bones


What most people DON'T know, is that calcium comes in a lot of forms. Each type of calcium will have different percentage of calcium, and the ability of our body to absorb these different calciums are also different.

Here is a brief summary on the kinds of calcium commonly available in the market, and their characteristics:


Calcium Carbonate

This type of calcium is the most common form of calcium available in the market. It's popular because of the low cost, and also because of the high elemental calcium value (40%). Elemental calcium means the "pure" calcium inside the entire tablet. If your tablet says it contains 500mg of calcium carbonate, this means there is about 200mg of pure "Elemental" calcium in it. That is why to get 600mg of calcium in a product like Caltrate, you'll have to cram in 1500mg of Calcium carbonate into one giant calcium tablet.

Having one of the highest elemental calcium does sound good. But what most people don't know is that calcium carbonate is amongst the poorest absorbed calcium out there. This is because calcium carbonate requires a lot of stomach acid to dissolve it. If it doesn't dissolve, we can't absorb it.

Tip to taking Calcium Carbonate: Take it with food, because food will increase the production of our stomach acid. Also, for those people taking Anti gastric medication like Omeprazole, Pantoprazole (controloc),Esomeprazole (Nexium) etc, try avoid taking this form of calcium, coz no matter what you do, you're not going to be able to produce enough stomach acid to dissolve and absorb calcium carbonate. 

Calcium Citrate

Calcium citrate contains a lower percentage of elemental calcium (21%), but is more readily absorbable by our body. The absorption of Calcium Citrate does not depend on acidity, therefore you can take it before OR after meals. Because of the lower percentage of elemental calcium, you will need to take more pills to make up your daily requirement of calcium

Certain brands of calcium citrate do offer some added minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium etc. The reason for this is because a lot of trace minerals play a major role in bone health, particularly in the mineralisation process.


Calcium Lactate

This type of calcium is almost never used because of it's low elemental calcium value. It's used more commonly in hospital settings, mainly because of the low cost. The Elemental Calcium values is 13%, and the normal tablet dosage per tablet is 300mg Calcium lactate. So, to achieve 1000mg of calcium per day, you would need 25 tablets of calcium lactate 300mg. Imagine that.

Aquamin and Seaweed calcium

This group of calcium is relatively new. The difference between Aquamin and other Seaweed calcium is the location it is derived from. Aquamin is derived from the coast of Iceland, whilst the other seaweed calciums come from various sources. Seaweed calcium is unique because they come with a very wide spectrum of minerals--72-73 of them. These minerals aid greatly in the mineralisation process of bone formation, and it even increases calcium, magnesium, manganese, barium, strontium and iron deposition in these osteoblasts.


Another thing worth mentioning is how these calcium claim that they are the most bio-available calcium out there. While we don't really have a way to verify that claim, Aquamin based calcium do have ample clinical studies to prove that they do in fact increase bone mass in both pre and post menopausal women, aids the mineralisation and maturation of bone cells, and even reduces the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

A plus point for Aquamin containing products in Malaysia like Aqua-cal is that it provides 825mg Elemental Calcium PER SERVING! This means 1 packet of this product will probably be enough for your daily calcium need. 

So now you know your calcium types....make sure you look carefully at what kind of calcium is in a product before you purchase it!