Bone Formulas: Not Just About Calcium Anymore

While calcium is still the star in the fight against osteoporosis, other bone-building nutrients are also important:

  • Vitamin D: Helps absorb and deposit calcium into bones.
  • Vitamin C: Helps produce collagen, which forms bone scaffolding.
  • Vitamin K: Promotes osteocalcin, a protein that helps keep bones strong.
  • Potassium: Helps retain calcium.
  • Magnesium: Aids bone formation.
  • Isoflavones: Estrogen-like compounds that increase bone density.
  • Manganese: May help lessen calcium losses.
  • Boron: May increase calcium absorption.

Supplement manufacturers are incorporating the new bone savvy into their products. But the array of formulas on drugstore and health food store shelves contain vastly differing combinations of nutrients in widely varying amounts. Confusing? You bet.

EN has compiled this chart to make it easier to compare bone supplements. We included as near-to-complete bone formulas as we could find, excluding those that contain just calcium and vitamin D. Finding the right bone formula for you, however, depends on your eating habits, other supplements you are taking and how often you are willing to pop pills during the day. Here are EN‘s best bets for building bones:

  • Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day (1,500 if you?re over 50).
  • Pay attention to calcium intake even if you?re on estrogen therapy or bone-building medications like alendronate (Fosamax) or raloxifene (Evista).
  • Don’t worry about the form of calcium; worry more about getting enough.
  • For best absorption of most forms, take bone supplements with meals.
  • Eat soy products to get isoflavones.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables for potassium and vitamin C.

EN‘s Comparison of Multi-Mineral Bone Formulas

 Bone formulas are listed in order of the number of whole pills (from least to most) you must take daily to get 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium. (A cup of milk would boost that to 1,300 or 1,500 for the day.) Other nutrients are rated based on whether the listed dosage meets EN‘s Nutrient Goals (see right).

EN‘s Nutrient Goals for Bone Health*

Calcium                  1,000 to 1,500 mg
Vitamin D400-800 IU
Vitamin C ?200 mg
Vitamin K80 mcg
Potassium ?2,000 mg
Magnesium400 mg
Isoflavones ?90 mg
Manganese2.5 to 5 mg
Boron1-13 mg
* Roughly in order of importance, based on available evidence.
? Easily available from foods.
 0 = none present
 ? = doesn’t meet EN‘s Goals
 += meets EN‘s Goals
 ++ = exceeds EN‘s Goals (but not enough to be dangerous)?desirable if you do not intend to take the number of pills noted
 J= EN‘s Picks. Bone formula picks are those that meet at least four of EN‘s Nutrient Goals, including vitamin D, in addition to calcium. (If you take other supplements, be sure not to overdo vitamin D.)
 Brand# Pills to Get
mg Calcium
Additional Ingredients
 Caltrate 600 Plus2+00?+?Copper and zinc.**
 Vitamin Shoppe Osteo Protector2? 00++00Ipriflavone.*
 GNC Women’s Daily Calcium Support 3?? 0++0+Silica.**
JSchiff Bone Builder3+??++++Copper, silica and zinc** plus minerals of questionable help.
 TwinLab Bone Support3+00++0 Ipriflavone* and natural isoflavones.
 Dr. Atkins Bone Care4?0++++0+Ipriflavone.*
JFreeda Fem?Cal4+00++++Horsetail.**
 Nature’s Plus Bone Power4?+0?0+Odd mixture of additional nutrients.
 Vitamin Shoppe Woman Osteo?Cal PM4+0000+Horsetail.**
JDr. Ben’s Formula?O5+0++++0+Silica.**
 Enzymatic Therapy Doctor’s Choice  For Bone Health5+?+?0+Copper, silica and zinc** plus soybean extract (for isoflavones).
JSolgar Bone Support5+0+++0+Ipriflavone* and natural isoflavones plus copper and zinc.**
JJarrow Bone?Up 6+++++++Horsetail, copper and zinc.**
JKAL Bone Defense6++++  +++++Ipriflavone* plus horsetail, copper and zinc.**
JNatural Balance Advanced Calcium/Osteoporosis Formula 6+0+++?+Ipriflavone* plus copper and zinc** and minerals of questionable help.
 Nature’s Self Care Daily Bone Support 6???++0+Phosphorus, unnecessary because  plentiful in diet.

Nature’s Way Calcium Complex Bone Formula

 6?0?++++Horsetail, copper and zinc.**
 Enzymatic Therapy OsteoPrime7?? +++</


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