Sponsored By
Celeste Sepessy

March 8, 2013

3 Min Read
Calcium Comprehension

The importance of this essential mineral is no secret; for decades, consumers have relied on dietary sources of calcium such as dairy products and leafy greens to support bone formation. But with a desire so strong and a deficiency so real, many Americans also turn to dietary supplements to boost calcium intake for bone health as they grow older. Though a mature industryboth in the market and population agenew innovations in deliveries, demographics and science are creating new, youthful markets for dietary supplement companies.

Calcium provides the bulk of bones, accounting for strength and density. Once consumed, the body absorbs calcium by active transport and passive diffusion through the intestinal mucosa.

Calcium absorption is at its peak in infancy, but remains high through puberty. Young adults typically absorb 25 percent of calcium consumed; this number decreases with the aging process, especially as women go through menopause.

American consumers are well aware of the dangers of deficiencies, and they're willing to take action. In the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) 2012 consumer survey, 17 percent of respondents said they use calcium supplementsmaking calcium the fifth most popular supplement. Similarly, Wells Fargo Securities reported 33 percent of supplement users turn to calcium, according to its August 2012 national survey on high-growth natural grocery, and vitamin and supplement retailers.

Calcium is available in both organic and inorganic forms. Organic calcium ingredients, such as calcium citrate, calcium lactate and calcium gluconate, have higher bioavailability and better solubility than inorganic calcium salts. Consequently, organic sources command higher prices and have a larger segment share, according to Frost & Sullivan market research.

Inorganic calcium ingredients, including calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate, have a high calcium content, but are not as bioavailable as organic options. However, inorganic calciumcalcium carbonate in particularis commonly used in dietary supplements and offers a low-cost option with established safety.

Calcium citrate contains 20-percent elemental calcium and low bioavailability. But with an acidic base, the soluble calcium citrate requires less stomach acid for absorptionmeaning consumers can take it without food.

  • As the top inorganic calcium ingredient, calcium carbonate boasts approximately 40-percent elemental calcium, thereby using less space for a smaller pill. Calcium carbonate is found in rocks, marine animal shells and eggshells. Its alkaline base needs stomach acid for absorption, so consumers should take calcium carbonate directly after a meal. The ingredient offers low solubility, so it is not used in functional foods and beverages.

  • Found in milk, calcium phosphate is less common in dietary supplements due to its low bioavailability.

  • Combining calcium carbonate with lactic acid produces calcium lactate, an organic calcium in aged cheeses and baking powder. The ingredient features improved water solubility, and is used in functional beverages and as an antacid.

  • Another organic ingredient, calcium gluconate contains lower levels of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.

Dietary supplement manufacturers must weigh their options when choosing a calcium type for formulation. Calcium absorption is one crucial aspect, and the mineral's bioavailability depends on dose size, age, gut acidy, dietary intake and vitamin D levels.

With staggering consequencescalcium deficiency and the high incidence of osteoporosisAmericans are looking to calcium solutions for strong bones. It's up to dietary supplement manufacturers to study up on this essential nutrient and provide equally strong options.

Read the full version of this article, and get a list of calcium suppliers in INSIDER's Calcium Buyers Guidebook.

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