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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Nutrition and Osteoporosis

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Nutrition and Osteoporosis: The Role of Supplements

Sometimes you need a nutrition boost to fight osteoporosis. If you can't get enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, taking supplements is an essential part of your bone health. To make sure the supplement you're taking contains the ingredients you think it does, look for the seal of U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) on the bottle.

Calcium supplements come in several types, including:

  • Calcium citrate
  • Calcium carbonate

As far as your bones are concerned, it doesn't matter which type you take. The difference is in how you take them. Calcium carbonate supplements should be taken with meals for you to absorb the most calcium. However, calcium citrate doesn't need to be taken with food. So if it's not convenient for you to take a supplement with a meal, look for a non-calcium carbonate supplement. In general, you absorb more calcium when these supplements are taken with food and when no more than 500 mg are taken at one time.

Most of these supplements also come in formulas that include a dose of vitamin D. If you get the combination form, you'll get both nutrients in one pill.

Tips for Taking Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

Whether you're getting your calcium and/or vitamin D in food or pills, your body can only absorb so much of it at a time. So it doesn't make sense to take in more than about 600 mg of calcium at a sitting, says Siris.

Heaney agrees.

"If you take in 1,000 mg of calcium in one meal, you might absorb 200 mg of it," he says. "But if you take it in two or three meals, you might absorb 300 mg.''

Whatever supplements you're taking, be sure to check the label.

"They all have different amounts of calcium and D in a serving," says Siris. "If you switch brands, be sure you know how much D you're getting in the new brand."

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on October 27, 2014
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