“Calcium is a mineral that is most essential for bone health – with 99% of the calcium in the body contained within our teeth and bones. It is also vital for critical bodily functions, such as muscle contraction. When our bodies do not have enough calcium for critical bodily functions, it will take calcium from our bones, causing even further loss in bone density,” warned pharmacist Bright Kupa of Medipost Pharmacy.
“Our bodies cannot produce calcium, so dietary sources are very important. These include milk and dairy products and certain vegetables like broccoli and soybeans. To build and maintain our bone strength, we need enough of this mineral in combination with vitamin D and plenty of weight-bearing exercise, for example walking.”
Adequate calcium intake to aim for per day is specific for different age groups and genders, with a recommended supplementation range from 500-1 200mg per day. A recommended amount of vitamin D supplementation for adults is generally between 400 IU and 1 000 IU per day. Kupa cautioned that taking too much of these minerals and vitamins can cause side effects, which is why it’s important to discuss with patients.
“Vitamin D assists with the absorption of calcium from the food you eat. With exposure to sunlight, the body can produce vitamin D, but dietary sources are also important. Without these vital nutritional building blocks, our bones will not grow strong. In children, this can lead to serious disorders such as rickets, where the bones are soft and weakened.”
“Patients with autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, and certain gastrointestinal disorders are more at risk for developing osteoporosis. A family history of osteoporosis, low body weight, and multiple pregnancies are also risk factors,” said Kupa.
“Regular use of certain medications, including aluminium antacids and corticosteroids, can also predispose a person to osteoporosis,” said Kupa. This is why it’s important to discuss medicines, including those available without a prescription, with patients.
“I recommend combination products containing calcium and vitamin D to make it simpler to meet the body’s requirements,” he said. “Supplements should be taken with meals as this helps with absorption, although some foods, such as spinach and wholegrain cereals, can block calcium absorption so supplements should be taken at least two hours apart from eating these foods. Also avoid taking antacids containing aluminium with these supplements,” he said.
“As primary osteoporosis is often related to menopausal oestrogen loss and ageing, chronic supplements are mostly advised for women past childbearing age and older men. Pregnant women are sometimes prescribed calcium carbonate 500mg to ensure they have enough calcium for their baby's healthy development and to maintain their own bone strength.”