A pharmacist answers questions about calcium intake through food and supplements.

Kristen Eblen, pharmacist at Lake Regional Pharmacy in Lake Ozark, Mo., answers questions about calcium intake through food and supplements.

Q: What does calcium do for the body?

A: Calcium is important for bone health, as well as to help keep all cells functioning correctly. The proper balance of calcium keeps the heart and other organs and muscles working as they should, but the most common use of calcium supplements is to strengthen bones. 

Q: How can I get calcium to my bones?

A: Calcium can be found in a variety of food products. The most recognized sources of calcium are dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Fortified cereals, fish, spinach and beans also contain calcium. 

If a person doesn’t consume enough calcium in their diet, they should consider taking an over-the-counter supplement. These are available in tablet, liquid and chewable tablet form. 

Q: How much calcium do I need throughout the day?

A: Men and women both need 1,000 mg of calcium daily until age 50. For those older than age 50, 1,500 mg of calcium daily is recommended.

Depending on the serving size and type, most foods provide anywhere from 200-400 mg of calcium. The approximate amount is listed in the nutritional information.

The body only can absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time, so patients are advised to space out their calcium intake throughout the day so it all is absorbed.

Q: How do I know what to buy at the pharmacy?

A: There are a number of different calcium supplements on the market. The most inexpensive option is calcium carbonate in products such as Tums, Caltrate or Os-Cal. For those who aren’t often exposed to sunlight or who have a vitamin D deficiency, calcium supplements are available with vitamin D added to aid in absorption.

Lake Sun Leader