Calcium plays a key role in your health, promoting healthy nerve function, maintaining bone strength and aiding in cell-to-cell communication. While a balanced diet should contain lots of calcium-rich foods to help prevent a deficiency, tricalcium phosphate, a form of calcium supplement, can help fill in any gaps in your diet to help ensure you get the calcium you need. Like any dietary supplement, however, tricalcium phosphate can cause side effects if you take it incorrectly or if you have certain medical conditions.
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Tricalcium Phosphate 101
Tricalcium phosphate is not as commonly found as other forms of calcium supplements -- like calcium citrate and calcium carbonate -- but it is easier to absorb, according to registered pharmacist Suzy Cohen, writing for the "Sun Sentinel." It also contains both calcium and phosphorus -- two minerals that make up your bone tissue -- while some other calcium supplements offer just calcium. A dosage of one commercial tricalcium phosphate supplement contains 500 milligrams of calcium and 230 milligrams of phosphorus -- 50 percent and 23 percent of the daily value, respectively. Some tricalcium phosphate supplements also contain vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.
High Calcium Levels
Because tricalcium phosphate is a concentrated calcium source, taking too much of the supplement can cause hypercalcemia -- high calcium levels -- but you'd have to take a lot of supplements to develop it. High calcium levels trigger digestive upset such as constipation, vomiting and nausea, and it can cause abdominal pain and excessive urination. Taking supplemental calcium might also up your risk of kidney stones -- the Linus Pauling Institute explains that women who take calcium supplements face a 20 percent higher risk than women who don't.
You're most likely interested in tricalcium phosphate as a calcium supplement -- it's extremely rare for a healthy person to develop a phosphorus deficiency, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. It also contains phosphate, however, and high blood phosphorus levels have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, notes the institute. Excess phosphorus can be a problem for people with kidney disease and some hypoparathyroidism.
If you're taking tricalcium phosphate in combination with medication, you might experience other side effects. For example, calcium can interfere with your ability to absorb some medications, like certain antibiotics, so your doctor might need to adjust your calcium dosage when you start taking medication. Phosphorus supplements also interact with certain diuretics to up the levels of potassium in your system. Dangerously high potassium levels disrupt the normal heart rhythm, which can be fatal.
Your best bet to avoid side effects is to chat with your doctor before taking any calcium supplement, including tricalcium phosphate. Your physician can determine whether you actually need a calcium supplement, recommend the type of calcium supplement, suggest a safe dosage and help make sure your supplement won't interact with any other supplements or medications you're taking. In the meantime, you can safely increase your calcium intake by eating calcium-rich foods -- select low-fat dairy, kale, spinach, tofu and pinto and white beans as healthy sources.