Optimal bone health relies on a number of nutrients of which calcium is just one. Dairy products ( mainly reduced fat varieties) are considered to be better than calcium supplements for a number of reasons. However if you are unable to have dairy products (DP) then a calcium supplement is required provided you split up the daily dose and not take it all at once.
Why are dairy products the best.
- they provide an excellent source of calcium which is very well absorbed due to the casein and lactose naturally present in dairy products
- they have other important nutrients required for bone health being vitamin D ( although sunlight is our greatest source), protein, vitamin B12, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Over half of our bone is protein. As bone is a living tissue these nutrients are always being replaced regularly so there always needs to be an adequate supply and dairy products delivers this nicely.
- dairy products have also been found to provide other health benefits such as reducing your risk of some lifestyle diseases
There is some research showing that in postmenopausal women if you take a calcium supplement greater than 1000mg then this can increase your risk of heart disease. However this has not been found to be the same if you take 1000mg calcium from food. This is why we recommend splitting up the calcium dose.
The negative effects of protein and sodium (both nutrients found in milk) by increasing calcium excretion are not evident with dairy products in the long term if adequate calcium is present. Milk alternatives ( eg soy,oat,almond) which are supplemented with calcium are also a good source of calcium but not as well absorbed as calcium from DP. Calcium is also found in plant foods but not as much as in DP but it is recognised that other nutrients and phytonutrients in these foods are also important for bone health. Even though they have phytates and oxalates these will not be a problem if you are having adequate dietary calcium.
The requirements for calcium change depending on your age and stage of bone development or maintenance so it is important to know how much you require. More isn't better. Your GP or Dietitian can help provide you the guidelines.
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