Calcium-Rich Liquid Meals: Meal Supplements and Infant Formulas Using Specialty Minerals Precipitated Calcium Carbonates (PCCs)

When it comes to calcium needs, there are no age limits. Providing enough calcium and other nutrients is especially vital for liquid foods which may constitute much or all of a person’s diet. Examples of these foods are:

  • Meal-replacement shakes, liquid breakfasts, and other liquid meal drinks. Designed to occasionally take the place of a regular meal for healthy people with hectic schedules, these beverages typically contain about one-third of a total day’s needs for proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins and minerals, including calcium. 

  • Meal supplements are designed to add a portion of the nutrients that might be missing in a meal; they are usually consumed along with the meal or as a between-meals snack.

  • Specialty Dietary Use Foods. These liquid meal replacements are for people with a particular health problem—diabetics, for instance. They may be available only at a pharmacy or through a health professional.

  • Diet Aids are reduced-calorie meals formulated to control not only caloric intake but also the amount of fats and/or carbohydrates consumed. Dietetic or slimming formulas can be used for one, two, or all meals.

  • Infant Formulas replace mother’s milk for children who are not breast-fed or are lactose intolerant.  There are also special formulations, also calcium fortified, for babies with dietary problems or special needs.

The above products are often based on cow’s milk, while some are soy milk- or soy protein-based. Regardless of the specific formulation, calcium is a key nutrient.

How Much Calcium In A Liquid Meal?
For healthy adults, liquid meals typically provide 200 to 400 milligrams of elemental calcium, which is equivalent to 20 to 40 percent of the amount recommended for daily adult consumption. Fortification with extra calcium is often necessary to meet these targets, even in products based on cow’s milk. Requirements for older adults, for pregnant or nursing mothers, and for teenagers generally are higher, while lower amounts are recommended for smaller children; therefore, products directed to those age groups may contain more or less calcium.

For most products, the degree of calcium fortification is left to the manufacturer. In the United States, one exception is infant formulas. Under 21CFR 107.100 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, each 100 kilocalories of infant formula must provide at least 60 milligrams of elemental calcium. No maximum is listed.

Calcium Carbonate in Liquid Meals
Calcium carbonate is often used as the calcium source in these meals, for several excellent reasons:

  • High bioavailability. Calcium carbonate is as bioavailable than the calcium in cow’s milk and is one of the most bioavailable of the calcium compounds used for fortification.

  • High calcium content. Calcium carbonate boasts the highest level of elemental calcium of the calcium salts used in liquid formulations—40 percent elemental calcium. Less weight is required to provide the needed amount of elemental calcium.

  • Economical in use. Calcium carbonate is one of the least expensive forms of calcium; this, together with the lower weight needed, makes it quite cost-effective.

A further benefit: Soluble forms of calcium can interact strongly with the milk and soy proteins used as the foundation for many liquid meals and infant formulas, causing coagulation, especially during pasteurization or UHT processing. Insoluble calcium carbonate interacts only weakly with these proteins, so stable products can more readily be prepared.

Specialty Minerals Calcium Carbonates For Liquid Meals
SMI manufactures over 20 different calcium carbonate products for food and nutritional uses.

Especially recommended for liquid meal applications are the small-sized precipitated calcium carbonates (PCCs). Smaller calcium carbonate particles are less likely to fall out of suspension; they require less stabilizer to keep them in suspension, and they settle out more slowly. Small-size particles also ensure that the formulations have the best taste and smoothest mouth feel. These smaller SMI calcium carbonates include:

  • CalEssence® 70 PCC – 0.7 micron, ultra-low lead grade made in the Adams, Massachusetts plant. With less than 125 ppb (parts per billion) of lead. This is the best option for manufacturers who have significant concerns about the limits specified in California Proposition 65.

  • ViCALity Albafil® PCC – also 0.7 micron, low lead PCC, made in the Adams plant. With less than 500 ppb of lead, it allows many products to comply with California Proposition 65.

  • Calofort® U EP PCC and Multifex-MM® USP nano PCCs – 0.07 micron, true nano sized, 70 nanometer particles, manufactured in SMI’s Birmingham, U.K. plant. Sold in the U.S and the Far East as Multifex-MM® USP PCC, and as Calofort® U EP PCC in the rest of the world. While these satisfy the lead requirements of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, they will not meet limits specified in California Proposition 65, for most applications.

All are manufactured in plants registered as Drug Manufacturing Facilities with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and are ISO 9001 certified. The healthcare grades from both plants are Kosher certified. The Adams plant is also AIB (American Institute of Baking) certified.