Calcium strengthens bones, and it also facilitates the body’s every muscle contraction and hormone secretion. Yet according to a 2009 USDA report, only one-third of Americans get adequate amounts of the mineral. Either calcium citrate or calcium carbonate, both non-prescription supplements, can help fill the gap.
The two are equally well-absorbed by the body, although people with low stomach acid -- such as older adults -- tend to absorb calcium citrate better. Both supplements come in tablet and liquid forms.
Calcium citrate is less concentrated than calcium carbonate, so it might require taking more pills per day. Calcium carbonate -- also used to alleviate heartburn and indigestion -- tends to be cheaper. Calcium carbonate should be taken with food, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, while calcium citrate does not need to be taken with food.
Calcium carbonate should be taken with meals; calcium citrate can be taken with or without food. For the best absorption, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends taking no more than 500 milligrams at a time; if needed, take additional doses later in the day.
The recommended daily allowance for calcium for adults younger than 50 is 1,000 milligrams per day; for adults older than 50, the recommendation is 1,200 milligrams.
Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate can cause stomach distress, bloating, constipation and loss of appetite. Never exceed 2,500 milligrams .
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