Pros: Tastes good. Easy to take.
Cons: Can be expensive.
Why is calcium important to our health? About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in the bones and teeth. The other 1% is in the blood, muscles and other soft tissues. That 1% is very important because calcium helps muscles contract, helps blood clot normally, is vital for nerve messages, and helps regulate blood pressure. Calcium may even reduce cancer risk. As we age, calcium begins to move out of the bones faster than it goes back in. If too much calcium is drawn out of the bones too fast in our later years, osteoporosis is a danger due to lessening of bone density.
Mrs. Spudman has had numerous back surgeries including fusions. She is also postmenopausal and her lower levels of estrogen cause more loss of calcium from the bones. She regularly gets bone density tests to monitor her calcium levels and the integrity of her bones. Her doctors have also advised her to take calcium supplements to insure that her intake of calcium is sufficient.
Why doesnt she just get her required calcium in her diet? Some calcium sources are: milk, cheeses, ice cream, yoghurt, pizza, tofu, soybeans, navy beans, salmon, turnip greens, seaweed, nuts, sardines, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, fortified orange juice, and pancakes. To make sure she is getting her recommended 1500mg of calcium a day, Mrs. Spudman would have to carefully keep track of everything she eats and the exact amount.
There are so many variables affecting the absorption of calcium in our bodies that it would be impossible to calculate or know the exact or even approximate daily intake of calcium. Vitamin D aids in absorption while factors like smoking, sedentary lifestyle, caffeine, high protein intake, and alcohol can reduce calcium absorption. Thus the simplest solution to insure adequate daily calcium is to take a supplement.
Some supplementary sources of calcium are products like Tums? or Rolaids? or calcium pills such as Caltrate? or Oscal?. (Oscal is about the size of a Tylenol? caplet. Ive read in my research that one should avoid oyster shell, dolomite, and bone shell sources because they may contain lead. According to the NIH site, calcium citrate is well absorbed and best taken on an empty stomach. Calcium carbonate, the ingredient in Viactiv, needs acid to be absorbed so is best taken with a meal. Since Mrs. Spudman takes a mini pharmacys worth of pills daily, the Viactiv is a welcome alternative for her.
The Viactiv? chews are packaged in a cardboard container with a plastic lid. Most commonly found in packages of 60, containers of 120 chews are also available.
Six flavors of Viactiv chews are available: milk chocolate, strawberry cream, chocolate mint, caramel, and the latest flavors, French vanilla and raspberry. Each chewy Viactiv square is individually wrapped and about the size of a small caramel. The recommended intake for women 51 and over is 2 or 3 chews daily. Viactiv contains vitamin D to aid in absorption and Vitamin K to aid in utilization.
Directions Take one chew up to three times a day, preferably with meals, or as recommended by your doctor. Chew thoroughly before swallowing. Since Viactiv contains Vitamin K, the user is advised to consult a doctor if taking blood-thinning medication. Taking more than 2,000 mg of calcium a day is not likely to provide any daily benefit and serves no useful purpose.
Ingredients corn syrup, calcium carbonate, sugar, nonfat milk, butter, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor, glyceryl monostearate, carrageenan, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, vitamin D3, vitamin K1
Each chew contains 20 calories.
My experience with Viactiv? is mostly passive, vicarious, and voyeuristic. I watch Mrs. Spudman take Viactiv with meals and sometimes even set one by her plate when I help set the table. She likes the caramel flavor best with chocolate a close second. The two newest flavors havent been sampled yet. She enjoys the flavor of the Viactiv, the candylike sweetness and the chewy texture and body. To her its almost like an after dinner treat or tiny dessert. For this review I sampled a Viactiv at dinner (even though its a womans product) and agree the experience is similar to eating a piece of candy. Im not as impressed by the taste as Mrs. Spudman is. Chewing a Viactiv can certainly be preferable to taking yet another pill.
During my research for this review I learned from several sources, including Virginia State Universitys Cooperative Extension, that the body cant efficiently absorb more than 500 mg of calcium at a time. If this is accurate, then anyone taking more than one Viactiv chew should not eat them at the same time. This is not made clear on the Viactiv packaging. On the web site we read, Each chew should be taken at different times of the day. This is important information that should be stressed in the product directions. It isnt.
Viactiv is marketed for women. On the package we read Active nutrition for women by women just below the product name. For every freshness seal mailed back to McNeil Nutritionals, fifty cents will be donated to Dress for Success an organization that helps disadvantaged women take charge of their careers and their lives. In addition the freshness seals can be used to accumulate points that can be redeemed for rewards from one of four shops career, spa, fitness, and style. While on the Viactiv site one may check her point totals, print money saving coupons for Viactiv, or read the FAQa about Viactiv, calcium, and osteoporosis.
Should you take Viactiv? Thats a personal decision. For one who needs to take a calcium supplement and doesnt like or cant tolerate dairy products, or wants to avoid adding another pill to the daily ritual, Viactiv is a product to be considered. From what Ive seen, its probably a more expensive regimen than a calcium pill or daily Tums?.
Addendum In my cyber wanderings I couldnt help but notice the following from several sources. I put it here at the end so few will see it.
From ask Dr. Sears - Foods high in phosphorus (such as meat, poultry, corn, potatoes, beer, buckwheat) can interfere with calcium absorption.
From the Organic and Wholefood Haelan Centre The Solanum genus of vegetables tomatoes in particular, but also potatoes, aubergines, peppers- all contain the calcium inhibitor solanine.