Dear Pharmacist,

I'm concerned about my bone density because I was told I have osteopenia. Are all calcium supplements the same? Do you have other recommendations?

--A.F., New York

Answer:Osteopenia, or lower-than-normal bone density, is frequently found in post-menopausal women but can affect men and women of all ages. Over the past few years, some questionable research suggested a connection between calcium supplements and atherosclerosis. But last November, Harvard researchers presented research showing no connection between calcium supplements and coronary artery calcification. If your doctor suggests calcium supplements for you, here's some information:

Calcium citrate: The easiest form of calcium to find, calcium citrate is absorbed about as well as calcium carbonate but requires less stomach acid to digest, so it can be taken with or without food. But be careful, as this type of calcium can sometimes cause headaches. There's a bunch of brands for this.

Tricalcium Phosphate: Easy to absorb, this is a combination of calcium and phosphorous which your bones (and body) need as well. Nature Made makes adult gummies with this type of calcium.

Calcium aspartate or calcium gluconate: These intelligent forms of calcium offer your body aspartate or gluconate which is used in other metabolic pathways to produce energy. Sometimes this bioavailable form of calcium is combined with vitamin D, magnesium and/or zinc.

Calcium collagen chelate: Minerals that are ingested as chelates, or organic salts offer good absorption and that means less tummy upset. Life Extension and Swanson brands both make this.

Calcium as Microcrystalline Hydroxyapatite (MCHC): This easily absorbed form of calcium is derived from freeze-dried calf bone. This provides other bone-builders like phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and chromium that nourish your bones. Solaray and Xymogen brands both make this.

For people who don't drink milk, Hawaiian Spirulina tablets (a blue-green algae) may help. It actually contains 300 percent more calcium than whole milk, plus other minerals. Remember, minerals like calcium are best absorbed when taken in combination with other minerals like strontium, magnesium, and vitamin D.

Other important factors in bone health include adequate levels of vitamin K2 which is involved in clotting. And strontium. It has a two-fold effect on osteoporosis meaning it prevents bone breakdown while also stimulating new bone growth. Medications only work one side of that equation. A 2004 study in New England Journal of Medicine concluded that strontium reduces risk of non-vertebral fractures by 41 percent over three years, and increases bone mineral density by about 14 percent. Eliminated processed and refined foods is a must.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)
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