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Check Label for Amount of Elemental Calcium.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Instruct patients who are shopping for calcium supplements to look for the amount of elemental calcium noted on the product label, not the amount of calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, or calcium phosphate, Dr. Gail Greendale advised.

By carefully reading the calcium supplement labels, patients can help avoid being misled about the amount of elemental calcium they are consuming. This is important because it's the elemental calcium that provides the benefit to bone, she said at a meeting on controversies in women's health sponsored by the University of California Los Angeles.

Most supplements contain calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, or calcium phosphate, but the amount of elemental calcium contained in each compound differs widely. For example, most chewable calcium supplements like Tums have 500 mg of calcium carbonate, which contains 200 mg of elemental calcium, said Dr. Greendale, research director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women's Health Center in Los Angeles.

Os-Cal 500 has 1,250 mg of calcium carbonate, which contains 500 mg of elemental calcium.

"If your patients look at the label and read the calcium carbonate content, they will think mistakenly that they're getting twice as much calcium as they're really getting," she commented.

Supplements containing calcium citrate work best for patients on proton pump inhibitors, Dr. Greendale said, because unlike the other compounds, they can be absorbed with or without an empty stomach.

Dr. Greendale also recommends calcium citrate-based supplements for those patients on histamine-2 blockers who cannot manage to take their calcium with meals.

Women aged 25-50 and women aged 50-65 on supplemental estrogen should take 1,000 mg of elemental calcium each day. Those aged 50-65 who aren't on estrogen should take 1,500 mg daily, said Dr. Greendale.

Women who are aged 65 years and older should take 1,500 mg of elemental calcium each day, regardless of whether they're on estrogen.
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Publication:OB GYN News
Date:Nov 15, 2000
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