When Calcium Isn't Good

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May 05, 2010

Don't let this supplement spoil your bone scan

Calcium supplements can help preserve bone density, protecting you from fractures. But did you know that taking calcium just before a bone scan might blur your bone-density test results? The very best test for measuring bone density in the spine and hip-dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA-works by reading how much calcium is present, not only in the bone, but within a cross section of the body. Poorly absorbed calcium can linger in the intestines and mimic dense bone on a spine scan, obscuring telltale signs of thinning bone, says Jeri Nieves, PhD, director of bone-density testing at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, NY. This rarely happens, but it could at least cause inconvenience: If your doctor notices an odd reading, she may suggest a second scan. "Don't quit taking supplements or cancel your DEXA," says Dr. Nieves. Instead, use a calcium supplement labeled "USP"-meaning it's met the US Pharmacopeia's standard for dissolving. And don't take any calcium supplement within an hour of a DEXA, says Dr. Nieves.

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