Excellent prospects for calcium supplements

With an ever-ageing global population, maintaining bone health for as long as possible is becoming an increasingly critical issue, writes Dr Javier Camargo, Global Business Development Manager Nutra/Pharma, Omya International AG

Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, with 99% occurring as hydroxyapatite in teeth and bones where it plays a structural role. However, calcium is also involved in other important bodily functions, such as optimising the performance of muscles and nerves.

Our daily calcium intake is a key factor that affects the correct development of bones in children and teenagers, as well as preserving bone mass in adults. Thus, a low dietary calcium intake has often been linked to skeletal disorders such as osteopenia or osteoporosis. Omya, a leading manufacturer of calcium carbonates, has proactively developed a concept for bone health supplements that targets the growing needs of today’s consumers.

A future of increased risk

With a high worldwide prevalence of more than 200 million people, osteoporosis is currently considered to be a serious public health issue. It is estimated that, in the US and Europe alone, approximately 30% of postmenopausal women are thought to be affected. In addition, it is documented that an osteoporosis-derived fracture occurs every three seconds, affecting patient disability and incurring a significant economic burden.1

In six major EU countries, for example, the costs related to treating osteoporotic fractures adds up to an amount of €37.5 billion. Furthermore, owing to ageing populations and lifestyle changes, the global incidence of osteoporosis is set to increase dramatically in the coming decades. In fact, by 2050, the worldwide prevalence of hip fractures in men is projected to increase by 310% and 240% in women, compared with 1990 data.2

Calcium: a key nutrient for healthy bones

An adequate daily calcium intake from cradle to grave is essential for preventing osteoporosis. Calcium can be ingested from regularly consumed food sources such as milk and dairy derivates (yoghurt, cheese, etc.), canned fish with edible bones such as sardines and green vegetables such as broccoli or almonds.

Calcium requirements vary, of course, according to age and gender: they are higher in teenagers owing to rapid skeletal growth and in our senior years because of less efficient calcium absorption.

Plus, recommended daily intakes differ on a per country basis. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assesses the population reference intake (PRI) for adults of both genders to be 950 mg/day. According to a systematic review by the International Foundation of Osteoporosis, calcium consumption around the world fluctuates from one region to another.3

For instance, the study indicates that countries in Asia have an average dietary calcium intake of less than 500 mg/day, followed by African and South American countries with a calcium intake of 400–700 mg/day.

Regions in Europe and North America are those with the highest calcium intake (680–1100 mg/day), with only Northern European countries demonstrating an average national calcium intake of greater than 1000 mg/day. So, when calcium requirements aren’t being met by dietary regimes, supplement consumption offers a convenient way to fill the gap.

Calcium and vitamin D3: a synergistic combination

Vitamin D3 enhances calcium absorption through the intestine while ensuring the correct renewal and mineralisation of the bone. Thus, combinations of calcium and vitamin D3 are often found within the food supplements market. Omya manufactures calcium carbonate, an excellent source of elemental calcium that’s frequently used in calcium-containing food supplements.

Different vitamin D3 grades (such as vegan and non-vegan types) are also distributed by Omya in specific territories.

Calcium in food supplements

Most of the marketed calcium food supplements are tablets (swallowable, chewable, effervescent), capsules or stickpacks. For tablet manufacturing, direct compression is often the preferred option because of faster processing speeds and increased efficiencies. When it comes to hard capsules and stickpacks, the most critical property in terms of processing is the flowability of the product to be filled.

The Omya Calcipur DC range contains high purity, direct compressible and free-flowing natural calcium carbonates. Thanks to improved processing properties, the ingredient is ideally suited for the production of various calcium-enriched dietary supplements.

In fact, by turning the powdered calcium carbonate into a granulate, Omya developed an ingredient that offers improved flow and compactability properties. The Calcipur DC range can be used in nutraceutical formulations as well as an excipient in pharmaceutical dosage forms.

The ingredient comprises high purity calcium carbonate granulated with 5–10% w/w of binder. The binders used in Calcipur DC products are gluten-free maltodextrin, non-GMO corn starch or a mixture of acacia gum and gluten-free maltodextrin.

Starting materials for Calcipur DC products are food (FCC compliant) and pharma grade (EP/USP). The Calcipur DC range is manufactured under appropriate nutra and pharma excipient regulations, such as HACCP and EXCiPACT, respectively.

Calcium content and bioavailability

The directly compressible products are an excellent source of elemental calcium, providing a similar level of oral calcium bioavailability compared with other calcium salts.4 They contain a bioavailable calcium content of at least 36%, which is derived from its active ingredient (calcium carbonate). Upon ingestion, calcium carbonate is solubilised into calcium ions in the acidic environment of the stomach and then absorbed in the intestine.

Calcium bone health claims

Regulations concerning the use of calcium in food supplements may vary according to specific geographies. In the EU, the recommended daily intake of calcium, independent of gender or age, is set at 800 mg/day. In this region, calcium can be claimed for bone health or to be a “source of calcium.”

Therefore, levels have to be greater than 120 mg (15% of the RDA) per dose, which translates into 316–333 mg of Calcipur DC, depending on the product. To claim to be a “high in calcium” food supplement, the end product must contain at least 240 mg of calcium, corresponding to 632–667 mg of direct compressible calcium carbonate.


  1. B. Gullberg, O. Johnell and J.A. Kanis, “Worldwide Projections for Hip Fracture,” Osteoporos. Int. 7(5), 407–413 (1997).
  2. O. Johnell and J.A. Kanis, “An Estimate of the Worldwide Prevalence and Disability Associated with Osteoporotic Fractures,” Osteoporos. Int. 17(12), 1726–1733 (2006).
  3. E.M. Balk, et al., “Global Dietary Calcium Intake Among Adults: A Systematic Review,” Osteoporos. Int. 28(12), 3315–3332 (2017).
  4. C.M. Weaver, “Solubility and Absorbability of Calcium Salts,” International Dairy Journal 8, 443-449 (1998).