Minerals pulled from crustacean shells may improve calcium uptake, battle osteoporosis

Getting the proper daily dose of calcium is essential for promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis, according to multiple health authorities. Since not all calcium supplements are created equal, this can be difficult to do. However, a new study has indicated that the fight against osteoporosis may be turning to a new source of calcium - crustacean shells.

A report published in a recent issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research has indicated that a form of calcium carbonate similar to that found in the exoskeletons of crayfish and other sea life may be easier for the body to absorb than that found in traditional calcium supplements.

Scientists at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, made this discovery after noticing that certain crustaceans have an ability to process and store amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC), a calcium-based mineral that is largely unstable.

Once stabilized by the crustaceans' organs, this form of calcium can be more efficiently used. To see whether this form of calcium might be beneficial for humans, the team synthesized samples of it and administered it to laboratory rodents.

They found that ACC was more efficiently absorbed and retained by the lab animals than crystallized calcium carbonate (CCC), a form of the molecule found in common calcium supplements. In particular, ACC absorption was 30 percent higher in rodent bones and 40 percent higher in their blood, compared to CCC.

ACC's ability to be more efficiently used by the body means that it may soon provide a valuable nutritional tool in the fight against osteoporosis, the team noted.

An adult over the age of 50 needs to consume at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day in order to maintain good bone health, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. While foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt contain healthy doses of the mineral, elderly Americans and those on restricted diets may be unable to consume them.

Taking a calcium supplement is essential, the International Osteoporosis Foundation says, since studies have shown that such supplements can increase bone density in people with osteoporosis.