Bone is living tissue and new bone replaces old bone throughout life. But as we age, the cells that build new bone (osteoblasts) cannot work as quickly as the cells that remove old bone (osteoclasts). This leads to an overall loss of bone tissue, which makes bones weaker and more fragile and more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Therefore, supporting bone health with key nutrients, weight-bearing exercise, keeping a healthy weight and not smoking is essential, especially as we get older.

It is well known that calcium, amongst other nutrients, is necessary for supporting skeletal and bone health. Calcium is found in a variety of foods including milk, cheese, yoghurt, leafy greens, beans, lentils and tofu. Yet not everyone can achieve optimal calcium status from diet alone so may need to consider a calcium supplement. There are many different types of calcium but not all types are created equal. The main types include calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, yet these can be poorly absorbed or may cause side effects. One type that has shown in studies to be beneficial to bone health and may be more easily absorbed is a plant-sourced calcium that occurs naturally in marine algae.

A 2010 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, demonstrated that a specific plant-sourced calcium is a more “bone friendly” form of calcium compared to traditional calciums.1 The study results showed that a specific plant-sourced calcium increased alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity 200% more effectively than calcium carbonate and 250% more effectively than calcium citrate. More ALP is produced when bones are growing or active. The plant-sourced calcium also outperformed both calcium carbonate and calcium citrate by 300% and 400% respectively on DNA synthesis – the ability of the osteoblasts to produce new bone building cells.

A separate 2011 open-label trial demonstrated that a specific plant-sourced calcium increases bone mineral density (BMD) in women over 40 years old.2 Participants followed 3 different bone-health programmes for 6 months to one year. ‘Plan 1’ contained a bone health supplement with 1000iu vitamin D3 and 750mg of plant-sourced calcium. ‘Plan 2’ and ‘Plan 3’ contained the same plant-sourced calcium with differing amounts of vitamin D3 and other added bone supporting ingredients. All plans also benefited from components designed to increase physical activity and health literacy. All 3 groups showed increases in BMD, in comparison to a range of studies suggesting that calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation alone can, at best, only slow down the age-related decline in BMD. ‘Plan 1’ showed a 1.3% increase in mean annualized percent change (MAPC) in BMD. The expected change with no intervention is -0.75%. The other 2 plans also had increases.

These studies support the efficacy of plant-sourced calcium and should be considered when supporting bone health, especially as we age.

1. Adluri RS et al. Comparative effects of a novel plant-based calcium supplement with two common calcium salts on proliferation and mineralization in human osteoblast cells. Mol Cell Biochem 2010 Jul; 340(1-2):73-80.
2. Kaats et al. A comparative effectiveness study of bone density changes in women over 40 following three bone health plans containing variations of the same novel plant-sourced calcium. Int J Med Sci 2011 8 (3): 180-191.

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