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What should I look for in a calcium supplement?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
If you want to choose a great calcium supplement, don't do what desperate game-show contestants do-guess. Take charge -- it is your body -- and read the labels.

You want one with 600 milligrams of calcium, plus 200-300 IU of vitamin D (the vitamin D is what delivers the calcium to your bones) and 200 milligrams of magnesium (which helps balance the effects of calcium on nerve function). Plus, the pill needs to be in a size and taste that you can swallow Twice a day.

That's right: You'll need to take two pills a day, as you need to consume 1,000 to 1,600 mg of total daily calcium (depending on your individual calcium needs) and you can only absorb 600 mg of calcium at a time. This means you'll also be taking a proper daily total of 400 or 600 IU of vitamin D (depending on your specific needs) and 400 mg of magnesium.

Also, remember that you need to consume 1,000 to 1,600 mg of actual calcium per day, not calcium combined with citrate or carbonate; if you choose supplements with citrate or carbonate, check the label for the proper amount of calcium. And make sure you choose the right calcium supplement for you. There are a lot of choices, and not all of them are good ones.

Avoid supplements that have iron in it (iron inhibits calcium's absorption and you typically get enough iron from food; if you're anemic and take calcium, take the iron two hours apart from the calcium). Also, calcium needs an acid environment for absorption so calcium in an antacid that neutralizes acid may not be optimal.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.