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Which Form of Calcium is Best for You?

Findings suggest that osteoporosis, which is typically considered a female geriatric disease, could be prevented with the use of supplemental calcium at an early age. The Ohio State University Medical Center conducted a study in which they tracked calcium's effects on bone density in girls ages 8-13 for a period of seven years. The researchers found that calcium supplementation significantly increased bone mass development during their childhood growth spurt. Velimir Matkovic, the lead author in the study and director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center, states "increased calcium use during adolescence can prevent fractures and osteoporosis later in life."

Several articles have also been written regarding the importance of calcium among males. Osteoporosis is not a condition that is found only in women, it is a concern for men as well. About 20% of those who suffer from osteoporosis are men.

Calcium, in men and women alike, is fundamental to bone formation and one of the most important minerals in our body. A relatively small but vital amount of calcium is found in blood and soft tissue where it plays multiple roles. Our body needs calcium to repair bones, help nerve function, make muscles contract, clot blood, and allow for proper functioning of the heart. When calcium intake is low or inefficiently absorbed, it is withdrawn from our bones and teeth in order to maintain these normal biological functions.

Both consumers and producers have acknowledged the importance of calcium. As a public health approach to increase calcium intake, we have increased the number of foods that are fortified with calcium. Some not so obvious foods that are good sources of calcium are almonds, tofu, and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, collard greens, bok choy and spinach. Even though we have a wonderful variety of calcium sources, it is still recommended for individuals to take a calcium supplement. There are at least a dozen common calcium preparations and hundreds of different formulations available. This leads to a critical question, which calcium supplement is most suitable for you?

When choosing a calcium supplement, a key factor to consider is the amount of elemental calcium present in the recommended dose. Elemental calcium is the amount of calcium in the supplement that is absorbed by the body. Most brands of calcium list the total weight of each tablet, which includes the amount of elemental calcium and whatever it's bound to such as carbonate, citrate, gluconate, lactate, etc. One way to determine the amount of elemental calcium in a supplement is to look at the Nutritional Facts label, which should include the percentage of Daily Value (DV). This percentage is based on 1,000 mg of elemental calcium. For example, if a calcium supplement has 70% DV, it contains 700 mg of elemental calcium. Always take into account the serving size when reading DV percentages.

Studies from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center show that Calcium Citrate is better absorbed by the body than calcium carbonate and is more favorable at preventing Osteoporosis (bone deteriorating disease) as well as other bone related diseases. Various forms of calcium are available that are enhanced with different vitamins and minerals. Calcium enhanced with vitamin D is recommended because the body is able to absorb calcium efficiently with the help of vitamin D. Fat-soluble vitamin D controls calcium homeostasis and has long been known for its involvement in mineral metabolism and bone growth. In the absence of vitamin D, dietary calcium is wasted and not absorbed.

In Conclusion: A few key points to remember. Osteoporosis may be preventable with early supplementation of elemental calcium and weight bearing-exercises such as walking, running, or hiking. Recent research confirmed calcium citrate is more absorbable when compared to calcium carbonate and should be fortified with vitamin D. And lastly, eat your green leafy vegetables.

Recommended Calcium Intakes *
Ages mg/day
Birth-6 mos 210
1-3 500
4-8 800
9-13 1300
14-18 1300
19-30 1000
31-50 1000
51-70 1200
70+ 1200
Pregnant or lactating
14-18 1300
19-50 1000
* National Academy of Sciences (1997)

 




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