[Bones | Nerve & Muscle Contraction | Blood Pressure | Metabolism]
[Muscles & Sports | Pregnancy or PMS | Calcium Deficiency]
[Calcium Supplementation | Interactions & Contraindications]
[Cautions | Calcium Binding Proteins | References]
Calcium is required all of our lives for healthy bones, teeth, muscle, nerve function, and for blood clotting. Muscle pains, cramps, twitches convulsions, and even cancer may suggest calcium deficiency.1 Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. An average man contains about three pounds of calcium and an average woman about two pounds of calcium. 99% of the calcium in the body is found in the bones and teeth. The other 1% of calcium may be the most important. Calcium helps regulate cellular metabolism throughout the body, so it is necessary for all body functions.2
Calcium may be of benefit in the treatment of allergy complaints, for depression, insomnia, panic attacks, arthritis, hypoglycemia, muscle and joint pains.
When the body does not get enough calcium it will withdraw a small amount from the bones to be sure that there is enough in the bloodstream. Over time, this deficiency has a cumulative effect. Osteoporosis, which literally means 'porous bones' is the result of calcium deficiency and in some cases, can be so severe as to cause the bones to break under the weight of the body. Particularly badly affected bones include the spinal vertebrae, the thighbone and the radius (shorter arm bone). The symptoms of osteoporosis may be absent until fractures occur although in some cases there may be back pain. As calcium is withdrawn from the bones, the body does its best to compensate. To protect the sagging architecture of the now brittle bones, bony deposits and spurs reduce movement and limit activity.4
Menopausal women are especially prone to osteoporosis although the problem occurs in a similar way in men. Most of the bone loss seen in osteoporosis occurs in the first 5-6 years after menopause due to a decline in circulating estrogen and an age related reduction in vitamin D production.
Getting enough calcium early in life is vital for bones to reach their maximum density. Studies show that calcium intake in the 11-24 year old age group is often below the recommended levels with serious consequences for later life. It is never too late to slow the bone loss seen in osteoporosis and early postmenopausal years are an important time to ensure optimal calcium intake. Calcium deficiency can lead to periodontal disease.3,10
in Nerve and Muscle Contraction
Effect on Blood Pressure
Sports and Calcium
and Pregnancy or PMS
Use of calcium supplements during pregnancy may lower a woman's blood pressure and lower the risk of preeclampsia which occurs in one in every twenty pregnant women. Symptoms of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, headache, blurred vision and anxiety. This can lead to eclampsia, a seizure disorder which can cause complications with pregnancy and even death. Many pregnant women do not consume enough calcium to ensure optimal blood pressure regulation.13 Calcium supplementation during pregnancy may reduce preterm delivery in high-risk populations.13
Pregnant and breast-feeding women, postmenopausal women and vegans may benefit from calcium supplements. Some research shows that taking calcium supplements later in life can slow the bone loss associated with osteoporosis.12
Dietary calcium and manganese supplementation may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cycle symptoms (PMS).14
The level of hydrochloric acid in stomach acid decreases with age or with the use of antacids. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach is needed to break down calcium compounds in preparation for adsorption in the intestines. In the intestines, Vitamin D is further required for calcium adsorption.17 People who do not get enough natural sunlight or are otherwise lacking in Vitamin D, will show signs of calcium deficiency.8 This is the reason Vitamin D is often included in calcium supplements.
Studies have shown that calcium is deficient in the diets of many women with around 35% of women suffering from osteoporosis after menopause. The average daily intake in the US is 600mg and in many countries calcium is the mineral we are most likely to be deficient in. Hip fractures cost $10 billion in the US and $175 million per year in Australia.
Between 10 and 40% of dietary calcium intake is absorbed, although women after menopause may absorb as low as 7%. Calcium from milk and milk products is absorbed more easily than that from vegetables. Absorption is enhanced by vitamin D, proteins, lactose, phosphorus, stomach acid and magnesium.3
Lactation increases the ability of women to absorb calcium after weaning or the resumption of menstrual periods. Calcium deficiency and moderate exercise also increase absorption and the efficiency of calcium absorption decreases as intake increases.
Calcium competes with zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper and iron for absorption in the intestine and a high intake of one can reduce absorption of the others.11
There are many research studies, which elude to the fact that high phosphorus and/or phosphoric acid (found in meat and soft drinks) leaches calcium out of the bones. This has a negative effect on bone density, leaving bones porous and spongy. When calcium is pulled from the bones, it is released through the kidneys resulting in stone formation (kidney stones) before it is excreted.12,15,16
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