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This one is about: Increasing Calcium Absorption

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  * Increasing Calcium Absorption
  * Unexpected sources of calcium
  * Lead in Calcium Supplements

Since calcium builds strong bones, it's important to build a supply up in your body when preparing for bone graft. An interesting, easy to read, site on calcium, includes info on where to get calcium in your diet and table of calcium supplements and lead:

One page: Unexpected sources of calcium:

Going to the Source: The Unexpected Everybody knows that milk's got calcium - but who'd have thought that a glass of water could be good for your bones? Herewith, the dark horses in the calcium race.

What It's Got: 300 milligrams total calcium (63 milligrams of which is absorbable) per glass.

Advantages: A quick source of energy, FOLIC ACID, POTASSIUM and, of course, VITAMIN C.

Disadvantages: Juices have none of the DIETARY FIBER of whole fruit. And juice "drinks" are packed with added sugar.

Bottom Line: Ordinary OJ doesn't have much calcium. Look for calcium-fortified brands like Tropicana Pure Premium Plus Calcium and Minute Maid Premium Orange Juice Calcium Rich.

What It's Got: 1250 milligrams of calcium carbonate (500 milligrams of which is absorbable) per Tums 500 tablet.

Advantages: It's convenient and inexpensive.

Disadvantages: Can cause constipation and gas in some people.

Bottom Line: Take with food to enhance absorption, but don't take within an hour of eating high-fiber foods or IRON supplements, which block absorption of calcium.

What It's Got: 133 milligrams total calcium (about 40 milligrams of which is absorbable) in one serving of lime-processed cornbread; 40 milligrams total calcium (12 milligrams of which is absorbable) per lime-processed tortilla.

Advantages: Corn flour processed with lime (the stone, not the fruit) substantially boosts its calcium content.

Disadvantages: If you pile on the ground beef, the PROTEIN may diminish calcium absorption.

Bottom Line: Always check the nutritional label - Frito-Lay's lime- and chile- flavored tortilla chips, for example, are made with lime juice, not limestone. And taco shells from Old El Paso, La Preferida and Chi-Chi's brands all list limestone as an ingredient, but only Old El Paso's tacos supply you with calcium.

What It's Got: 50 milligrams total calcium (19 milligrams of which is absorbable) per glass of San Pellegrino.

Advantages: The calcium in mineral water is as easily absorbed as that from milk; according to a recent British study, drinking mineral water with a meal enhances calcium absorption by nearly 25 percent.

Disadvantages: The calcium content differs depending on the spring from which the water originates.

Bottom Line: Check nutritional labels to verify how much calcium you're really getting. Besides San Pellegrino, other calcium-rich brands include Mendocino (, Vittel (Grande and Hepar) and Perrier (

What It's Got: 281 milligrams total calcium (59 milligrams of which is absorbable) per ounce.

Advantages: It's a more common food than you might think: Ground sesame is the main ingredient in many deli items, from tahini spreads to halvah candy; and the whole seeds can be added to beans, grains, salads.

Disadvantages: The tiny seeds have a tendency to pass through the intestines without releasing their MINERALS, so chew them well.

Bottom Line: Give tahini and other sesame products a try next time you're whipping up a dip or salad dressing.

What It's Got: 92 milligrams total calcium (19 milligrams of which is absorbable) per ounce of dry-roasted nuts.

Advantages: High in VITAMIN E, some B vitamins and MAGNESIUM.

Disadvantages: One ounce (which is only a handful, after all) packs 169 calories and nearly 15 grams of FAT - not so hot for weight watchers.

Bottom Line: Okay, so they're fatty. But almonds have less fat than other nuts, and most of it is POLYUNSATURATED.

--Supplement Ratings: Take With Food

The efficiency with which your body grabs the calcium in a supplement depends a lot on the environment of your gastrointestinal tract. Calcium is best absorbed in the presence of stomach acid (ironic, since most antacids contain calcium), so anything that lowers acidity - including "acid blockers" such as Tagamet and Pepcid - also lowers calcium absorption.

Acid levels tend to be highest late in the day and during meals, so try to take your supplements in the evening or shortly after you've eaten. The only caveat - don't take supplements with meals that are heavy in FIBER or at the same time you take an IRON supplement. Both fiber and iron can interfere with calcium absorption.

Don't take with soda (pop):

The PHOSPHORIC ACID that gives colas, orange sodas and some citrus sodas their "bite" can also upset the body's balance of PHOSPHORUS and calcium, increasing the rate of calcium excretion. When a diet is low in calcium and high in phosphorus (think of teens who switch from milk to soda), the result may be a calcium deficiency.

Studies on the relationship between soda drinking and bone health have had mixed results - some found an association between heavy soda consumption and an increased risk of fractures; others haven't - so no one is saying that soda should be banished from a healthy diet. But for those who are concerned about calcium, it might be a good idea to make a few changes:

Read labels and try to cut back on sodas that contain phosphoric acid, like Dr. Pepper, Coke, or orange Fanta. Try mineral water instead of soda. Some brands - including San Pellegrino, Mendocino (, Vittel and Perrier ( - actually contain calcium, so you can satisfy your taste for something cold and 
fizzy and do your bones a favor.

If you're just too hooked to give up cola, try to increase your intake of calcium-rich foods (or take a calcium supplement) to balance things out.

Caffeine also decreases calcium absorption:

Protein & Calcium:

A high level of PROTEIN (and SODIUM, which is found in many dairy products) is a common - and often underestimated - threat to calcium balance. People who try to lose weight on high protein diets (as advocated in bestellers like The Zone), or who get most of their calcium from high-sodium dairy products like cheese, may actually be doing themselves more harm than good.

When protein and sodium levels rise, the rate of calcium excretion rises with them, as the body flushes out calcium along with protein byproducts and sodium. If calcium reserves are already low, this extra loss can spell trouble.

The antidote:

* More calcium, preferably in the form of calcium-rich vegetables like kale, collard greens or bok choy. (Increased dietary calcium helps to offset calcium lost in the urine, and decreases the amount of calcium flushed out of the body.)

* Adequate VITAMIN D - either through sun exposure (15 minutes in the midday sun each day), vitamin D-fortified milk or a supplement. Any one-a-day multivitamin will provide enough.

* Less protein and fewer salty foods.

If you are going to take a calcium supplement, check the amount of lead in it. For chart of amount of lead in different supplements visit: (It might be one of the links off this page)

Here's info on a brand with limited amount of lead: (and also mentions that TUMS 500 is ok)


The Natural Resources Defense Council took action under California's law, and in January 1997 reached an agreement under which Leiner Health Products Group, the nation's largest manufacturer of dietary calcium 
supplements, will manufacture virtually lead-free calcium products. Leiner uses a process called chelation to remove lead - a feat that other manufacturers have claimed isn't feasible.

Environmentalists and public health advocates hoped that the Leiner settlement would set a precedent, and that soon other manufacturers would also "get the lead out." But in April 1997 the California Attorney General reached a settlement with several manufacturers allowing them to sell calcium products for the next two years, without warning labels, with exposures of up to 6 micrograms for supplements and up to 9 micrograms for antacids. The settlement proposes lead reductions after two years, but even then these manufacturers can avoid compliance if they can show that it would cause an increase in prices.

For consumers concerned about lead levels, Leiner products appear under the name "Your Life" and as the house brands in such stores as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreen's, and Walmart. Other products currently on the market that meet the California standards for lead are TUMS 500, Mylanta Chewables for Children, and Posture D High Potency Calcium.

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