Home » Dietary Minerals » Calcium

Calcium

What is Calcium?

Calcium is not only an abundant mineral on Earth, but it also carries the title of being one of the most prevalent minerals found in the human body. Indicated as number twenty on the atomic chart, calcium plays an important role in nature’s balance as well as human health.

What does Calcium do?

Interestingly, calcium is not only imperative to human health; it also plays a vital role in animal and plant health. Calcium contributes towards network building in organisms, which means this element has the ability to aid muscle movements and skeletal structures. Additionally, calcium works to help efficient nerve transmission, hormonal balances as well as vascular contractions.

The primary function of calcium in the human body is to support bone structure. As individuals age, bones require greater amounts of calcium than the bones of younger bodies. This means that calcium is particularly important for older men and woman. Because bones must continually reconstruct themselves in order to function well, calcium must always be present in the body to help with the resiliency of the skeletal system.

Where is Calcium found?

Calcium possesses unique traits which cause it to react rather violently when combined with certain acids and water. For this reason, calcium is not found as a pure element in nature. Instead, calcium is purified with other compounds to create an alkaline earth metal mix.

As far as consumption is concerned, calcium is found in two specific dietary supplemental forms as well as in various foods. Calcium can be purchased at local pharmacies in capsules of calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Calcium citrate tends to be easier on digestive tracts while calcium carbonate has a more efficient absorption rate, but may upset those with sensitive stomachs.

What happens when someone has a Calcium deficiency?

In the long term, deficient calcium intake through supplements or food can lead to fragile skeletal systems which may result in osteoporosis. A fragile skeletal structure may also lead to more frequent fractures or breaks.

Short-term effects of a calcium deficiency might present itself as tingling fingers, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps or poor appetite.

Individuals who may be at a higher risk for calcium deficiencies include women who have gone through menopause, those who suffer from lactose intolerance and vegetarians with restricted diets.

The calcium-magnesium balance is also important since they have similar functions and can either encourage or antagonize each other. Our body needs twice as much calcium as magnesium. Too much magnesium inhibits bone formation, whereas too much calcium causes symptoms that resemble magnesium deficiency.

Helpful food sources, supplements and additional benefits of Calcium

Calcium supplements are available by prescription but can also be purchased at over-the-counter brand prices from local pharmacies. If you take calcium supplement, it is good to divide your calcium doses; take one half in the morning and the other half in the evening to get the best absorption. Both Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate supplements can be purchased with additional Vitamin D added as an aid for overall absorption.

Calcium is also find in a variety of everyday foods including dairy products such as milk and yogurt. Canned fish is a great source of calcium alongside cabbages, broccoli and turnip greens. For vegetarians, tofu is an adequate source of daily calcium that meets dietary restrictions. When choosing calcium-rich beverages, both soy milk and fortified orange juice provide a calculable amount of calcium. Choosing dairy products that are fortified with Vitamin D will help with calcium absorption.

Calcium – AIs (Adequate Intakes)

Requirements are greatest during childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Some experts suggest that elderly persons should take as much as 1,500 mg/day to help prevent osteoporosis . Osteoporosis is a common condition in which bones become weak and fracture easily, due to a loss of bone density.

Infants
0-6 months
7-12 months
Milligrams per Day
210
270
Children
1-3 years
4-8 years

500
800
Males
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

1300
1300
1000
1000
1200
1200
Females
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

1300
1300
1000
1000
1200
1200
Pregnancy
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

1300
1000
1000
Lactation
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

1300
1000
1000

Sources:
http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/what-are-the-best-sources-of-calcium.aspx
http://chemistry.about.com/b/2010/04/30/calcium-facts-2.htm
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
USDA Dietary Reference Intakes