March 23, 2010 in Features

Which type of calcium is best?

Peter H. Gott, United Media

DEAR DR. GOTT: Is calcium citrate better than calcium carbonate?

DEAR READER: For most people, no. Both types of calcium are absorbed similarly by healthy people. Calcium carbonate is more commonly available and is usually less expensive. It is more readily absorbed when taken with food. Calcium citrate is generally more expensive but is often more easily absorbed by those with lower levels of stomach acid. It is readily absorbed by the body with or without food. The supplements also contain different amounts of elemental calcium. Carbonate is 40 percent by weight, and citrate is 21 percent.

Calcium absorption decreases as the amount of elemental calcium per dose increases. In order to get the most out of your calcium supplements, you should take several smaller doses. If you are taking 1,000 milligrams per day, for example, try taking 500 milligrams twice a day. Your body will use more of the calcium, thus providing greater benefits.

Calcium is also added regularly to certain foods. It is common to find calcium-fortified breads, orange juice, cereals and tofu. Dairy products are naturally high in calcium, so consuming three servings of low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt can provide significant amounts.

Calcium supplements are most often recommended for people who have osteoporosis or are at risk for it. It is important to take supplemental vitamin D to aid absorption. Supplements are also important for vegans, strict vegetarians and those with lactose intolerance.

Speak with your primary-care physician regarding which treatment is best for you. He or she is your best resource for information regarding your health. If you are simply looking for information, visit the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements Web site at http://dietary-

To provide related information, I am sending you copies of my Health Reports “Osteoporosis” and “Vitamins and Minerals.” Other readers who would like copies should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order for each report to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44902. Be sure to mention the title(s) or print an order form off my Web site at

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