Calcium: An Important Mineral For Women

The Importance of Calcium for Women
The primary importance of calcium for women is its function in bone development. Young women (adolescents and young adults) need to make sure they get enough calcium, as they can achieve their peak bone mass just after this age. Adequate amounts of calcium will help her bones reach optimum bone density. This can help protect her from osteoporosis later in life. Mature women need calcium to prevent break down of bone. There is also a growing body of research that suggests that calcium may prevent PMS.

How Much Does A Woman Need?
The amount of calcium that a woman should get per day ranges from 1000mg-1500mg, depending her age group, and hormonal state.

a) Ages 11-24 (adolescents and young adults): 1200-1500 mg
b) Ages 25-50: 1000 mg
c) Pregnant and nursing: 1200-1500 mg
d) Older than 50 (postmenopausal):
          -- on estrogens: 1000 mg
          -- not on estrogens: 1500 mg
e) Older than 65: 1500 mg

Dairy Is Not For All Women
When calcium is mentioned, the first source that comes to mind is dairy products (milk and milk products). However, if a woman is lactose intolerant, vegan vegetarian, or allergic, has religious or other self-imposed dietary restriction, or if she just doesnt like milk, dairy foods are not the best option.

Fat Is A Problem
Dairy products are chalk-full of fat. The non-fat options are often unappealing. For example, take an average woman taking in 2,000 calories/day and requiring 1200 mg of calcium/day. If she was to get all of her daily requirements for calcium from drinking 2% milk, she would have already used up 40% of the calories from fat that she should be getting for that day. Even worse, drinking whole milk would take up 80% of her calories from fat! The latter choice comes close to eliminating meat eating, if she wants to a diet that is low-fat, but meets her calcium needs.

Where's The Calcium
Not to worry, there are many other ways for a woman to get her recommended daily allowance of calcium, beyond milk products.

1) Non-dairy foods: broccoli (36 mg/0.5 cup cooked), sardines (420 mg/213 g), clams, oysters, kale (90 mg/0.5 cup cooked), turnip greens (99 mg/0.5 cup cooked), and mustard greens.

2) Artificially calcium-fortified: juices and cereals. Calcium-fortified orange juice contains 320 mg/cup, while calcium-fortified cereals contain 200 mg/cup.

3) Supplements: calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium gluconate, calcium glubionate, calcium lactate, tricalcium phosphate

4) Other forms: Tums, Viactive, Soy milk (200-500 mg/cup). Tums are tablets that contain calcium carbonate. One regular strength tablet contains 200 mg and one extra strength tablet contains 300 mg.

5) Milk (whole, 2%, 1%, and skim) contains 315 mg/cup and fruit-flavored yogurt contains 259 mg per ¾ cup.

Cautions With Calcium Supplements
While calcium is good for a womans body, too much of anything can cause problems. The body has a natural mechanism for protecting against calcium overdose, but it can be over-ridden if more than 4 grams of calcium are consumed per day. To do this, a woman would need to be taking 3-4 times the usual dose in supplement tablets a day. The two most serious effects of calcium overdose are renal damage and the deposit of calcium in other areas of the body besides the bones.

Women who are already at risk for developing kidney stones should take caution about taking supplements. They can contribute to stone formation. Any woman taking supplements may get constipation and acid stomach. Keeping total intake to 1500 mg/day virtually eliminates this problem.

Calcium supplements can be involved in drug interactions with medications. A woman should always touch base with her doctor before starting calcium supplements. Her doctor can make sure there are no drug interactions or medical reasons to avoid them.

How To Take Calcium Supplements
Putting it in the mouth and swallowing is not enough! What women eat or drink around supplement ingestion can help or hinder its absorption into the body. Thirty minutes before or after the supplement is taken is the time frame for avoiding the bad and coupling with the good. Dividing the daily supplementation is two or three doses. Avoiding bedtime doses will avoid nighttime heartburn. It doesnt matter which form of calcium is used. They are all absorbed the same in the same circumstances.

Types of foods/situations that increase absorption of calcium supplements:
a) proteins
b) lactose (milk sugar, occurs naturally in milk)
c) Vitamin D
d) Acidic foods

The main foods that can cause decreases absorption are those that contain oxalate:
a) cocoa
b) spinach
c) kale
d) unpolished rice
e) wheat bran (only in large amounts)

Alkaline foods also interfere with absorption. Less significant factors include fat, phosphate, caffeine, and magnesium.

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Copyright © 1999 GenneX Healthcare Technologies,Inc.


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