Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and 99 per cent of its calcium is present in the bones and teeth. Like any other tissue in the body, the bone is diet and lifestyle dependant. The bone is our calcium-bank, the more you deposit and fewer withdrawals you make when you are young, the more you will have later in life. Calcium is a prime player in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. How much of this mineral is sucked out of your bones and how much is deposited in them is primarily influenced by how much you consume and how well it is absorbed by the intestine.
Calcium is a fussy mineral. It doesn’t work unless supported by a number of other factors. Here are some tips to improve calcium absorption.Certain food fibres bind calcium and prevent its absorption. Do not take calcium supplements along with high fibre foods like whole wheat, Bran cereal spinach - methi etc. Stimulants like tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, some minerals like zinc and antacids hinder the absorption of calcium.
Calcium citrate and calcium glycinate get more readily absorbed than other forms. Take your supplement in a divided dose rather than all at one time. Researchers say that for best calcium absorption, take a major part of the supplement with your dinner meal rather than in the morning.
Antacids reduce acidity (which may bring you relief from heart burn) but they hinder calcium absorption. A 500 mg vitamin C supplement taken along with calcium supplements helps in better absorption of the mineral. Foods rich in the mineral Boron are known to improve calcium absorption. Boron is found in soyabean, almonds, peanuts, apples and pears.
Vitamin D, K, magnesium phosphorous, Boron, silicon etc all have to exist in a delicate balance along with calcium to aid its absorption.
Physical inactivity pulls calcium out of your bones. The only way to prevent this is get moving. Walk briskly for 30-minutes daily or lose your bone mass.
It’s best to consume at least 500 mg of foods and supplements rich in calcium, daily as an insurance against bone loss. Adults above 40 years of age need a total calcium intake of about 1000-1200 mg daily.
(Dr. Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre)