05 November 2014

Why you should be taking a calcium supplement in your twenties

Despite what you may think, it is best to focus on looking after your bones in your twenties to avoid low bone density and osteoporosis later down the line . . .

When you think of osteoporosis, you probably think of it as an elderly women’s disease – something you won’t have to worry about in your twenties. Unfortunately that’s a common misconception and something that can affect your bone health later down the line.

A decrease in bone density

During your twenties, your bone mass reaches its peak. After this, your body will not replace the bone at the same rate it loses it, causing a decrease in bone density, the NIH states. Osteoporosis results in even lower levels of bone mass, causing porous holes to develop within the bone. Once bone mass has decreased below a certain level, a diagnosis of osteoporosis can be made.

Because of this, preserving maximum bone mass can assist in delaying or even preventing the onset of osteoporosis.  Today’s lifestyle places us at a higher risk of poor bone mass than before. Unhealthy diets, a lack of exercise, too little sun exposure, eating disorders, smoking and alcohol consumption are all factors that affect your bone health.

A calcium supplement can help your body to build healthy bone, especially if you are not getting enough calcium from your diet. This is particularly important for young women in their teens and twenties, as women already have lower bone mass than men to begin with.

Find out: Is your calcium intake adequate for bone health?

What to remember when taking a supplement:

- It is important to buy quality supplements to ensure that they actually are beneficial.

- Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and is consumed in the diet and produced in the skin under the influence of sunlight. Look for calcium supplements that contain vitamin D.

- Calcium supplements are best absorbed if taken in small amounts throughout the day and with meals.  Avoid taking more than 500mg at one time.

- Avoid taking calcium together with foods known to reduce its absorption (e.g. fibre, oxalates, phytates, bulk-forming laxatives).

- Calcium supplementation is safe and generally free of side-effects. Constipation can occur – increase your water and fibre intake to avoid this.

- Avoid taking more than 2000mg of calcium per day, especially if your supplement contains vitamin D as this has been linked to kidney stones.

Read more:

What is osteoporosis?

Symptoms of osteoporosis
Preventing osteoporosis

Image: Pills in hand, close up from Shutterstock


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Healthy Bones

Tereza is the CEO of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and worked as a Nursing Sister in the field of Osteoporosis for 18 years prior to her appointment with the Foundation. She used to be the Educational Officer for the Foundation and co-wrote the patient brochure on Osteoporosis. Read more

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