Calcium does more than build and maintain strong bones; it is also integral for proper hormonal, nervous and circulatory system functioning. As the body ages or develops certain physiological conditions, however, calcium levels may drop, leading many to dietary changes and supplementation from compounds like calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate. Not everyone is pleased with the absorbency rates of these compounds and may turn to unproven alternatives like calcium aspartate, which is touted by manufacturers to absorb in the body almost completely and cause fewer side effects. Though as of 2011 these claims have not convinced established medical institutions.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) publishes a recommended daily dose for as much as 1,300 mg of calcium to ward off conditions like arthritis, particularly as old age ensues. Calcium citrate, calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate are all deemed dependable alternatives by the NIH. A vitamin D supplement also is reported to help the body absorb the calcium. These combinations, calcium carbonate in particular, have proven effective in human clinical trials.
Calcium aspartate makers claim to have the best absorption rates among the various calcium compounds at 92 percent. At the Web site advertising the EZorb® brand of calcium aspartate supplements, this supposedly superior ability is purported to help people avoid gall and bladder stones that form when not enough calcium is being absorbed by the body. It is also recommended as a supplement to help children develop stronger bones and teeth. In all, the manufacturer claims to be "extremely effective" for battling bone decay, osteoarthritis, bone spurs, generalized pain, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.
Many medical experts are not yet convinced about calcium aspartate as of 2011. The NIH has not added the compound to its list of acceptable supplement, and the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the claims. Dr. Andrew Weil, at his Web site devoted to answering common health care questions from the standpoint of integrative medicine, stated that calcium aspartate and another supposedly well-absorbing supplement, coral calcium, have yet to be proven unequivocally as viable replacements for the more-established compounds.
Calcium aspartate has not proven to be effective — or ineffective — in bolstering the body's calcium levels. The body is, however, getting more calcium than it had before at potentially a higher absorption rate. In addition to supplements, physicians push aging patients to eat more calcium-rich foods to hedge their bets. These not only include dairy products and red meat, but also many grains and vegetables.