Supplements Or Diet: Does Calcium Source Matter?

We know that bone health depends on adequate calcium intake. Research indicates that there may be advantages to calcium-rich foods over calcium supplements.

A healthy diet is one of the most powerful preventative measures we can take—and calcium-rich foods are a cornerstone of good nutrition. Calcium is the most common mineral in the body. Although most calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, a small amount is found in blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells, where it plays an important role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve impulse transmission.

We know that adequate calcium promotes strong bones, can help prevent osteoporosis as we age, and offers additional health benefits. But does our calcium source make a difference—is a calcium supplement as good as a cup of plain low-fat yogurt? Research suggests that reaching for that yogurt may be the better option.

Kidney stones are composed of calcium oxalate, and research has suggested a link between calcium supplements and an increased risk of developing kidney stones. However, research has also identified a possible connection between healthy dietary calcium intake and reduced risks of kidney stones. Calcium intake via diet does not appear to cause kidney stones and may protect us from developing them.

Calcium supplements also have the potential to interact with several types of medications, and decrease the body’s absorption of certain drugs. It is always a good idea for individuals taking medications to sit down with their doctor and discuss any other supplements they may be taking, to avoid potential drug interactions.

There’s no question that a diet delivering recommended daily amounts of calcium is good for our bones and maintains efficient body function. For individuals who need more calcium than diet alone can provide, it is important to discuss all medications with your physician to ensure that the benefits of calcium supplements are maximized, and any risks are avoided.

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