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Calcium 101:  How Do I Know Which Supplements to Take and How Much?

The average 44-year-old American woman has a calcium intake of 440 mg per day -- a third of the RDA.  Menopausal women need even more daily calcium:  1500 mg, whether or not they take estrogen.  It's a challenge to get this from your diet, especially if you are trying to count calories, control cholesterol, or are lactose intolerant.  Taking calcium supplements is a fine alternative.

The most important reason for most women to take calcium is to protect their bones.  Calcium may also have a role in preventing colon cancer, heart disease, and even PMS.

Many foods are calcium fortified, like orange juice.  Calcium supplements also come in tasty, multi-flavored chewable forms like Tums.  You can even get it in chocolates -- Viactiv products come with only 20 calories each.  Women who prefer pills have many choices.  [If taking generics, be sure that the product dissolves by soaking it in a half cup of vinegar and water.  If it doesn't in 30 minutes, try a different brand].  Multivitamins don't have much calcium -- read the label.  If you take iron and calcium, take them at different times.  If you get constipated, take your calcium in divided doses with a full glass of water.

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Created: 5/17/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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