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What Is the Difference between Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Citrate?

Calcium carbonate supplements contain more calcium than calcium citrate supplements.
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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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There are several differences in the supplements of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, such as how easily they are absorbed by the body, the amount of usable calcium per compound, and overall price of the products. Both types of calcium are used for ensuring the body has enough of the vital mineral, as well as a heartburn treatment or antacid when necessary. Despite all of their differences, these calcium supplements have both been known to cause constipation in some patients, and the overall recommended dose for daily consumption is 1000 mg taken at least twice during the day. It is best to ask a doctor for specific dosing recommendations, as the amount may vary depending on factors such as genders, age, and health related issues.

One of the most important differences between calcium carbonate and calcium citrate is how readily absorbed and well tolerated they are by the body. Most medical professionals suggest that calcium citrate is more easily taken in by the digestive system. It is also suggested that calcium citrate is less likely to cause constipation symptoms because the digestive organs are better able to tolerate it. For patients with conditions that reduce their ability to produce stomach acid, calcium citrate is considered to be more effective as well.

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Another commonly recognized difference in calcium carbonate and calcium citrate is how much usable calcium mineral is present in each calcium compound. Calcium carbonate contains about 40% of elemental calcium, while calcium citrate only contains about 21%. The quality of the elemental calcium is the same, so the patient will be required to take more tablets of calcium citrate in order to have the same therapeutic effect as fewer calcium carbonate tablet products. Patients may choose the carbonate version for greater convenience, or the pharmacist or doctor may prescribe it for patients who tolerate it well.

The price of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate is often different as well. In many cases, calcium citrate is more expensive than the calcium carbonate products, possibly due to the carbonate version's reputation for potentially causing constipation and the fact that it is less readily absorbed by the body. It is important to note that in order to receive a full dose of calcium, it would be necessary to take more calcium citrate than calcium carbonate and that is likely to result in a higher expense. Many patients experiment with the two types of calcium products to determine which best fits their needs and budget.

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