15 Best Bone Health Supplements: Reviewed & Rated 2023
Jules Walters • Last update: Jan 16, 2023
In this guide, I’ve ranked and reviewed the 15 best supplements¹ and highlighted my top five picks at the top, based on my experience and research. Further down, I’ve reviewed each of my top 15 dietary supplements that supports bone health, so you can check them out further and choose the right one for you.
If you’re short of time, you can jump to the full rankings list by clicking on any item in the Table of Contents. It’s below here on the right.
You can see the process for my rankings here.
The bad news is that our bones are thinning after menopause. The good news is that you can take action to promote your bone health.
A well-balanced diet and regular weight-bearing exercise is a great starting point for most adults. But a variety of lifestyle factors, from nutritional gaps to low body weight, limited sun exposure and broken bones can all leave us short.
Once estrogen levels drop, it’s estimated we’re losing around TWO PER CENT of our bone mineral density PER YEAR, according to research in The New England Journal of Medicine. For older adults, that’s a lot of bone loss and not to be shrugged off.
The health benefits of one of Earth’s most abundant minerals are well documented, not least by the US National Institutes of Health.
Children need calcium to grow strong bones. But adults also need calcium to maintain their bone strength and, among other important health benefits, combat the increased risk of fractures, and – for women in particular (especially those with a family history) – the higher risk of osteoporosis as we age.
Post-menopausal women may have lost up to 20% of their bone structure by the time their menopause is over, In short, calcium is an essential mineral for optimal health.
Daily exercise and supplements to maintain bone health
If you ask your healthcare provider, they may well recommend a balanced diet and regular exercise as a first line of defense. A defense, that is, or potential to mitigate, all kinds of medical conditions from joint pain to heart disease.
Weight training, or at least weight-bearing exercises, are part of my daily routine. But daily doses of calcium supplements that include vitamin D and vitamin K are also high on my list, and that of many others taking charge of their own health.
Why do we do that? In a few words: to increase our bone density, support bone health and fight one of the most debilitating effects of aging.
Hospital visits due to poor bone health
We hear so many headlines about heart conditions, diabetes and breast cancer. Yet it is a little known fact that among women over 45, osteoporosis accounts for more days in hospital than many other diseases, including these three.
I have friends in their 50s, who are starting to stumble and suffer bone fractures. My mother, who’s fortunately a healthy 86, has many friends who have had hip replacements, broken arms and collapsing vertebrae.
One of THE most important things you can do to support your long-time health after menopause is to keep your bones healthy.
In 2021, the North American Menopause Society reviewed the evidence for the management of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. In the Society’s Menopause Guidebook it concluded that there is no single or optimal management strategy for osteoporosis.
Taking a calcium supplement with vitamins D and K added is an increasingly popular option for reversing bone loss, and certainly a good idea for postmenopausal women.
But the bottom line is you have to find out what works for you. So, discuss different approaches to reduce and repair post-menopausal bone loss with your doctor. That could be either your primary care doctor or your ob-gyn.
We’re used to thinking of bones as pretty static elements of our body, a bit like the scaffolding holding everything together. However, bones are actually living tissue with blood vessels and specialized cells, like stem cells.
Most of our adult skeleton is replaced every 10 years.
Our bone matrix is about 94% collagen, which is an important protein. The hardness is due to a crystalline structure of calcium and phosphate. Like a garden, it needs your attention. Other trace minerals believed to be important for bone health include boron, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, silicon, strontium and zinc.
One in three women over 50 will have a fracture due to osteoporosis, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Please read this sentence again. One in three women! So, that could easily be you.
Bone fractures are common events among older people, and most likely to happen in our arms, shoulders, hips and spine. Women will have more fractures than men as we age. Low bone density or weak bones play a crucial role in these life-changing events — as does the loss of estrogen.
Vitamin D along with calcium forms part of our bone mineral matrix and is needed for bone strength.
A review of the key ingredients in bone strength published in Nutrients in 2020 reported that about 80 to 90% of vitamin D levels are produced by our bodies from being in the sun. The other 10-20% can come from a limited number of foods, like oily fish, mushrooms and fortified dairy products with added vitamin D.
So, if you live in an area without much sun, you may be low in vitamin D.
European guidelines for the management of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women recommends at least 800 IU (international units) of vitamin D a day.
A little known partner in building bone mineral density is vitamin K. Science calls these partners co-factors, as they are necessary for a chemical reaction. In our bones, vitamin K is a co-factor, or key partner, in laying down minerals in our bones.
A 2020 review found a link between not enough vitamin K and the risk of bone fractures.
A quick survey of the shelves of your local pharmacy will find few, if any, calcium supplements that also contain vitamin K. Most commonly available calcium supplements will contain vitamin D, which is a good start. Ideally, find a calcium supplement that contains both vitamin K and vitamin D.
How much calcium do I need to maintain bone health?
The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) calls osteoporosis (a deterioration of bone strength) a significant health threat for women after menopause.
To keep your bones healthy, the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a daily allowance or target of 1,000 mg a day for women up to the age of 50. For women over 51, a total calcium intake of 1,200 mg a day is recommended.
You can find dietary calcium in several common food sources, particularly dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Leafy greens, notably dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens and spinach, are also good sources of calcium — as is tinned salmon.
If you eat a healthy diet, you should get about half your calcium from your diet. For example, an average 200 ml pot of yogurt has 260 mg calcium. A cup of milk contains 305mg.
To reach 1,200 mg a day, you could look at calcium supplements with vitamins D and K to ensure optimal absorption; in other words, to ensure enough calcium gets out of your blood and into your bones.
I eat well, but I know my dietary sources are unlikely to be enough, so I take calcium supplements every day to ensure I hit my 1,200 mg a day. I intend to live to at least a healthy 100 years, and healthy bones are a big part of that.
Measuring bone density
I highly recommend that you also know your base line for how strong your bones are, particularly once you’re over the menopause. Knowledge is power, so get some data.
How good are your bones now? A reliable way to check your bone strength is through an imaging text called a DEXA or DXA scan. It uses low levels of x-rays to see what’s happening under your skin. DEXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry.
The test will come back with two scores: a T-score and a Z-score.
A T-score compares your bones to a healthy, 30-year-old. It will present the score as a standard deviation, which calculates how much you differ from the average. One standard deviation is equal to a 10-12% difference in bone mass. So if your T-score is -1, then you have 10-12% less bone density than someone aged 30.
The World Health Organization defines osteopenia, which comes before osteoporosis, as a T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 deviations below normal. So, if your T-score is a lower number than -1.0, it’s time to have a conversation with your doctor.
A Z-score compares your bone density to the average of people your own age and gender.
Once you have these scores, you can put in place a plan based on the results.This is definitely a discussion to have with your doctor.
How much calcium can I get through food?
It’s a good idea to estimate how much of your daily allowance of calcium you’re getting from your diet. Think about an average day and take rough estimates.
For example, a cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium; an ounce of cheese about 200 mg; and six ounces of yogurt between 150-200 mg. Rough estimates are good enough, so check the labeling on your regular containers.
A typical day might be:
- Breakfast milk in cereal (1 cup): 300 mg
- Mid-morning yogurt (6oz): 200 mg
- Spinach (1 cup cooked): 240 mg
- Chia seeds (1oz): 200 mg
Total calcium intake: 940 mg
The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation has a handy calcium calculator to estimate how much calcium you consume on a normal day.
Different kinds of calcium
It’s important to know that there are different forms of calcium, and that some forms are more easily absorbed by our bodies than others.
Many supplements use calcium carbonate, which is cheap and easy to find in rocks. Yes, you read that right: rocks, like marble and limestone. Calcium carbonate is a mixture of calcium and oxygen joined together. (Calcium carbonate needs to be taken with food to improve calcium absorption.)
Another common form of calcium is calcium citrate, which is rock calcium mixed with citric juice, such as lime or lemon. This supplement form is absorbed well when taken with or without food, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s recommended for people taking acid blockers, or living with inflammatory bowel disease or other stomach disorders.
In the past decade, another form of calcium from algae has become popular, as it also contains trace minerals that are believed to be important for bone health. The red marine algae is called lithothamnion superpositum. You may see this shortened to lithothamnion sp. on supplement labels.
Calcium hydroxyapatite is another form of calcium. This one comes from animal bones, usually cows. It’s thought to be a more readily absorbed form of calcium, as it’s bound to phosphate, and may be particularly good at building bone.
Hover over the product image in my review section below if you wish to click through to the retailer’s website.
¹Statements made on this website and about these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, test, cure or prevent any disease.
Jules’ Reviews – My Top 15 Bone Health Supplements (2023)
1. Garden of Life/mykind Organics — Plant Calcium
This form of calcium is extracted from algae, which also contains trace minerals like strontium and vanadium — believed to be important for bone health.
The serving size of 800mg in this supplement is reasonable, assuming we have a healthy diet and get some of our daily allowance of 1,000 mg of calcium a day from food. For women over 50, a 1,200 mg daily calcium intake is recommended.
Vitamins D & K are also included in this supplement, to help the calcium reach our bones. It’s the product of a collabporaton between Harden of Life and mykind Organics (co-founded by Alicia Silverstone). It claims to be the first vegan supplement line that’s certified organic, non-GMO verified, and free of synthetic fillers and binders.
2. Essential Elements — Bb Bone boost
Essential Elements uses calcium hydroxyapatite from animal bones as its active ingredient.
A serving size is 1,400 mg, which sounds a lot, but on the label it points out that only about 22% of that is calcium, so that’s about 308 mg of calcium. This is a good boost if you’re getting most of your daily calcium from your diet.
Hydroxyapetite is bound to phosphate, as it comes from bones, and may be particularly good at building bone.
3. 1MD Nutrition — OsteoMD
1MD uses calcium hydroxyapatite from animal bones as its source of calcium, mixed with vitamins D3 & K2 to help absorption. It also throws in a little bit of grape extract as an anti-oxidant.
This supplement will deliver about 25% of your recommended daily calcium intake, so you can think of it as a good boost to an already healthy diet.
4.Garden of Life — Vitamin Code Raw Calcium
Garden of Life uses calcium from algae, which also contains trace minerals like magnesium and strontium.
The serving size is four capsules a day to deliver 1,100 mg of calcium, which is most of your daily allowance. If you’re eating a healthy diet that’s delivering half your daily allowance through food, you could consider taking two capsules a day for 550mg of calcium.
This formulation also includes vitamins D3 and K to boost absorption.
5. Doctor’s Best — Calcium Bone Maker
Doctor’s Best uses hydroxyapatite calcium from animal bones, usually from cows. This form of calcium is bound to phosphate and may be particularly good at building bone.
One serving of three capsules delivers 1,363 mg of calcium, which is more than the recommended daily allowance — so you could consider taking fewer capsules a day if you’re getting some calcium from your diet already. You usually get from food about half your daily recommended amount of between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium, though recommended calcium intake does increase with age.
This formulation also includes vitamins C, D3 and K2, plus magnesium, zince, copper, manganese, potassium and boron.
6. Nature’s Way — Alive! Bone Support Calcium
Nature’s Way Alive! Bone Support Calcium uses calcium from red marine algae lithothamnion superpositum to deliver 1,300 mg of calcium through four tablets.
Again, on a healthy diet that’s delivering half your recommended amount of calcium, consider taking two tablets a day to deliver a further 650 mg of calcium a day.
This formulation includes magnesium and strontium from the algae, plus vitamins D3 & K2, as well as a greens and veggie blend in a powder.
7. Naturelo — Bone Strength
NatureLo Bone Strength uses calcium from marine algae to deliver 600 mg of calcium in four capsules.
Vitamins C, D3 and K2 support absorption with a boost of trace minerals, including magnesium, zinc, manganese, potassium, boron and silica.
This is a gluten-free, soy-free and vegan-friendly supplement.
8. AlgaeCal — Plus
AlgaeCal Plus contains calcium from the marine algae l. superpositum, which means it also contains the trace element magnesium from the algae. Boron has been added to the mix, as has vitamins C, and D & K to help absorption.
This formulation uses vegetable cellulose in the capsules, which makes it suitable for vegetarians.
9. Peak Performance — Raw Whole Food Calcium
Peak Performance also uses calcium from marine algae. Four capsules in a serving size will deliver 800 mg of calcium, plus vitamins C, D & K, magnesium and boron.
This formulation includes an organic fruit and vegetable blend, including alfalfa leaf juice and kelp, if you’d like to double up and include a dose of your daily fruit and vegetables as well.
11. Thorne — Advanced Bone Support
Thorne’s Advanced Bone Support uses dicalcium malate, which is calcium bound to malic acid. Thorne believes this formulation helps the calcium to be well absorbed and better tolerated than other forms of calcium.
Two capsules in a serving will deliver 300 mg of calcium, along with vitamins B6, B12, D3, folate, magnesium and boron.
12. Qunol — Calcium + Magnesium + Zinc
Qunol’s Calcium plus Magnesium plus Zinc three-in-one supplement obtains calcium from calcium carbonate in rocks. Calcium carbonate makes up around four per cent of the earth’s crust and is found in chalk, limestone and marble. It comes from the shells of shellfish and coral that have fossilized.
This formulation will deliver 1,000 mg of calcium in three tablets.
13. Nature Made — Calcium Magnesium Zinc
Nature Made’s combination of calcium, magnesium and zinc delivers 333 mg of calcium carbonate from rocks in one tablet.
Magnesium is used by the body in many ways, including supporting our muscles and nerves, and in making proteins and bones. Zinc is another trace mineral used by our bodies in many chemical reactions that include bone formation.
14. Puritan’s Pride — Absorbable Calcium
Puritan’s Pride Absorbable Calcium delivers 600 mg of calcium from calcium carbonate in two softgels, combined with vitamin D for bone strength and magnesium to support bone formation and boost absorption.
This version contains gelatin, so it’s not suitable for vegetarians. Gelatin comes from animals and is often used to make the capsules.
15. Nature’s Bounty — Calcium
Nature’s Bounty Calcium’s serving size of two softgels delivers 1,200 mg of calcium from calcium carbonate from rocks. If you are eating a healthy diet and obtaining half your calcium from foods, like yogurt and green vegetables, you could take just one softgel a day delivering 600mg of calcium as a boost to your normal diet.
This supplement also contains vitamin D for bone strength.