Q. I am 49 and had a bone density scan done since osteoporosis runs on my mother’s side of the family. The results showed that I have borderline osteoporosis. I am now taking Fosamax, calcium supplements and estrogen. I am also trying to get more exercise, especially walking.
I read somewhere that there’s a substance in tea (perhaps tannic acid) that inhibits the body’s ability to absorb calcium. I am a tea drinker, but I will cut back on my tea consumption. I hate having to give up tea entirely and would like to indulge myself on the weekends.
What if I take calcium tablets in the morning and don’t drink tea until lunch? Basically, I want to time my tea consumption so it would not interfere with calcium absorption. Can you help me with this strategy?
A. You are correct that tannins in tea can alter mineral absorption, but iron is affected more profoundly than calcium. If you take your calcium at breakfast and have tea at lunch or in the afternoon, there should be no problem.
Calcium may not be all that it has been cracked up to be when it comes to bone health. The research is contradictory as to whether calcium will prevent osteoporosis. There is even some reason to believe that too much calcium may be hard on the cardiovascular system and increase the risk for heart attacks. More details here.
Fosamax is susceptible to interactions with foods, supplements or beverages. Be sure to take it with plain water at least half an hour before swallowing anything else.
Our free Guide to Drug and Food Interactions puts the tea and calcium concern into perspective. You may also find our Guide to Osteoporosis worth review as it describes a variety of nondrug options.
We don’t think you need to give up tea. It is a healthful beverage that may reduce your risk of heart attack and cancer.