Some people take supplements containing tricalcium phosphate to supplement their daily calcium intake if they are not getting enough calcium from diet alone. However, tricalcium phosphate is a concentrated source of calcium and taking too much can cause high calcium levels or hypercalcemia.
High levels of calcium can cause:
- stomach pain
- muscle pain
- excessive urination
It may also cause dehydration, fatigue, loss of appetite, thirst, and mental confusion. Side effects may also occur if a person does not take it correctly, is taking certain medications, or has particular diseases.
What it is and its uses
Some calcium phosphates derive from phosphate rocks, calcium from plant sources, and ammonia.
These can be considered vegan. Most of the time, however, calcium phosphates are made from ground animal bones.
Calcium phosphate aids in cell functioning and plays a vital role in many different body processes, including bone growth and energy production.
Tricalcium phosphate is effective as a nutritional supplement because it is readily absorbed in the body. However, there is little evidence to show it is more effective than other calcium supplements, in particular, those containing citrate and carbonate.
Tricalcium carbonate also has many other uses. It is found in many household items, including baby powder, toothpaste, and antacids. A variety of industries use tricalcium carbonate. For example, the biomedical sector uses tricalcium phosphate to make cement or composite to repair bones.
Tricalcium phosphate is not a good option for people with kidney disease.
When a person has kidney disease, their kidneys are unable to remove phosphorus effectively.
This is important because high levels of phosphorus can affect the levels of calcium in the body, sometimes, making bones brittle and weak. High levels of phosphorus can also cause calcium to enter blood vessels, lungs, eyes and the heart.
Anyone living with kidney disease or limited kidney function should talk to a doctor about the best ways to keep calcium levels healthy, without further damaging their kidneys and other organs.
It is also essential that people with kidney problems know how much phosphorus they are consuming and where they are getting it from. A typical low phosphorus diet for a person with limited kidney function should not exceed 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily of phosphorus.
Tricalcium phosphate and cancer risks
Researchers suggest that diets high in inorganic phosphates, which are additives found mostly in processed foods, such as meats and cheese, stimulate the growth of small cell cancers.
One study from the American Thoracic Society that studied mouse models reports that diets high in these phosphates may accelerate the growth of lung cancer tumors and contribute to tumor development in people who have an increased risk for lung cancer.
Other studies have found a connection between inorganic phosphates and the development of a variety of cancer types.
One Swedish study reported in BMC Cancer measured serum levels of inorganic phosphate (Pi) of people aged 20 years or older to assess cancer risk. The Swedish researchers found increasing Pi levels was a higher cancer risk in men, while in women, low levels of Pi were associated with higher risk of certain cancers.
Individuals, especially those with risk factors for different types of cancers and kidney disease, should talk to their doctor before taking any calcium supplement, including tricalcium phosphate.
The safest and most effective way to increase calcium intake and maintain calcium levels is by eating calcium-rich foods. Excellent sources of calcium include:
- low-fat dairy
- leafy greens, kale, and spinach
- canned fish (sardines)
A doctor is in the best position to determine whether someone needs a supplement and can recommend a specific supplement and a safe dosage.
They can also advise people who have medical conditions or are taking other medications on the best supplements to take to avoid interaction.
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