Calcium is the most plentiful stored mineral found in our body. More than 99% of calcium is stored in bones and teeth.
Calcium is a critical element that plays a vital role in blood vessel function, heart function, nerve transmission, cell signaling, and hormonal secretion.
Musculoskeletal Health Benefits of Calcium
1. Calcium Boosts Bone Health
Calcium is necessary for strong bones. Calcium combines with phosphorus and water to form a material called hydroxyapatite. Initially, hydroxyapatite has a texture like a paste. Hydroxyapatite settles adjacent to and coats a lattice of rope like fibers called collagen. With time the hydroxyapatite hardens binding together the various components of the collagen scaffold. In a certain sense, calcium and hydroxyapatite are like cement that when mixeded with collagen hardens to form strong concrete. This biologic concrete provides the rigidity and strength necessary for normal bone function.
Calcium deficiency leads to inadequate mineralization of the collagen scaffold and relatively weak bone. This increases an individual's risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.
French researchers conducted a large randomized trial on the effect of calcium supplementation on fracture prevention in more than 3000 elderly women. They showed that an additional 1200 mg of calcium, when given daily with 800 IU vitamin D3 for 18 months, reduced the incidence of hip fractures by 43% in the treatment vs. the placebo group (Chapuy MC et al. Vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent hip fractures in elderly women. N Engl J Med. 1992 Dec 3;327(23):1637-42.)
2. Calcium Enhances Muscle Health
Calcium is crucial for strong muscle. Electric impulses stimulate the release of calcium from a storage facility called the sarcoplasmic reticulum that is located in muscle cells. Calcium then floods into an area where muscle fibers are located. Calcium attaches to a special muscle protein referred to as the troponin-tropomyosin complex. Calcium causes the troponin-tropomyosin complex to change its shape. The new shape allows for the troponin-tropomyosin complex to interact with another protein, called actin. A muscle contraction then occurs.
Proper frequency and intensity of muscle contractions keep muscle healthy. Inadequate calcium levels sabotage this process and restrict muscle contractions. Suboptimal muscle contractions lead to decreased muscle mass and weakness.
Dutch investigators evaluated the relationship between calcium intake and muscle health. The authors of the study concluded that low calcium intake was associated with low muscle mass and increased risk for sarcopenia, an advanced stage of muscel wasting. (van Dronkelaar C et al. Minerals and Sarcopenia; The Role of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, and Zinc on Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength, and Physical Performance in Older Adults: A Systematic Review. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2017 Jul 12. pii: S1525-8610(17)30305-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2017.05.026.)
Other Health benefits of calcium
There are other conditions that calcium may assist, although more research is needed and for some conditions results to date have been mixed. Those include:
- Boosts a healthy heart
- May decreases risk of kidney stones
- May reduce premenstrual depression
- Maintains good teeth health
Best natural sources of calcium
Vegetables, milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich natural sources of calcium.
1 to 3 years 700 mg/day
4 to 8 years 1,000 mg/day
9 to 13 years 1,300 mg/day
14 to 18 years 1,300 mg/day
19 to 30 years 1,000 mg/day
31 to 50 years 1,000 mg/day
51 to 70 years (men) 1,000 mg/day
51 and older (women) 1,200 mg/day
14 to 18 years (pregnant/breastfeeding) 1,300 mg/day
19 to 50 years (pregnant/breastfeeding) 1,000 mg/day
Calcium from natural foods is generally well tolerated. RDA amounts can be obtained from a balanced, healthful diet and moderate sun exposure.
The National Institutes for Science has published an upper limit value of 2500 mg/day for ages 19-50, and 2000 mg/day for 50+.
Excessive intake of calcium may cause blood calcium to reach levels that are dangerous. This high blood calcium level is known as hypercalcemia. The excess calcium is deposited in blood vessels, the heart, and the kidneys. Potentially increasing risk of cardiovascular disease and kidney stones.
Any consideration a supplementation should be discussed with a qualified health professional familiar with your unique medical history.
Aloia JF, Dhaliwal R, Shieh A, Mikhail M, Islam S, Yeh JK. Calcium and vitamin d supplementation in postmenopausal women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(11):E1702-E1709.
Avgerinos DV, Leitman IM, Martinez RE, Liao EP. Evaluation of markers for calcium homeostasis in a population of obese adults undergoing gastric bypass operations. J Am Coll Surg. 2007;205(2):294-297.
Bauman WA, Shaw S, Jayatilleke E, Spungen AM, Herbert V. Increased intake of calcium reverses vitamin B12 malabsorption induced by metformin. Diabetes Care. 2000;23(9):1227-1231.
Bendich A. The potential for dietary supplements to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms [review]. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(1);3-12.
Bonithon-Kopp C, Kronborg O, Giacosa A, Rath U, Faivre J. Calcium and fibre supplementation in prevention of colorectal adenoma recurrence: a randomised intervention trial. European Cancer Prevention Organisation Study Group. Lancet. 2000;356:1300-1306.
Boonen S, Lips P, Bouillon R, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Vanderschueren D, Haentjens P. Need for additional calcium to reduce the risk of hip fracture with vitamin d supplementation: evidence from a comparative metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Apr;92(4):1415-1423.
Borghi L, Schianchi T, Meschi T, et al. Comparison of two diets for the prevention of recurrent stones in idiopathic hypercalciuria. N Engl J Med. 2002;346(2):77-84.
Bostick RM, Fosdick L, Grandits GA, Grambsch P, Gross M, Louis TA. Effect of calcium supplementation on serum cholesterol and blood pressure. Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:31-39.
Caan B, Neuhouser M, Aragaki A, Lewis CB, Jackson R, LeBoff MS, et al. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of postmenopausal weight gain. Arch Intern Med. 2007 May 14;167(9):893-902.
Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Gann PH, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci EL. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians' Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;74(4):549-554.
Consensus Opinion. The role of calcium in peri- and postmenopausal women: consensus opinion of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2001;8:84-95.
Dagnelie PC, Schuurman AG, Goldbohm RA, Van den Brandt PA. Diet, anthropometric measures and prostate cancer risk: a review of prospective cohort and intervention studies. BJU Int. 2004;93:1139-1150.
Davies KM, Heaney RP, Recker RR, et al. Calcium intake and body weight. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;85(12):4635-4638.
Emkey R, Emkey G. Calcium Metabolism and Correcting Calcium Deficiencies. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics. 2012; 41(3).
Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of calcium intake and incident and fatal prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006;15:203-210.
Gonnelli S, Campagna MS, Montagnani A, Caffarelli C, Cadirni A, Giorgi G, Nuti R. Calcium bioavailability from a new calcium-fortified orange beverage, compared with milk in healthy volunteers. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2007;77(4):249-254.
Grau MV, Baron JA, Sandler RS, Wallace K, Haile RW, Church TR, et al. Prolonged effect of calcium supplementation on risk of colorectal adenomas in a randomized trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007 Jan 17;99(2):129-136.
Gulson BL, Mizon KJ, Palmer Jm, Korsch MJ, Taylor AJ. Contribution of lead from calcium supplements to blood lead. Environ Health Perspect. 2001;109(3):283-288.
Heaney RP, Dowell SD, Bierman J, Hale CA, Bendich A. Absorbability and cost effectiveness in calcium supplementation. J Am Coll Nutr. 2001;20(3):239-246.
Hermensen K. Diet, blood pressure and hypertension. Br J Nutr. 2000;83(Suppl 1):S113-S119
Hiller JE, Crowther CA, Moore VA, Willson K, Robinson JS. Calcium supplementation in pregnancy and its impact on blood pressure in children and women: follow up of a randomised controlled trial. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2007 Apr;47(2):115-121.
Hofmeyr G, Duley L, Atallah A. Dietary calcium supplementation for prevention of pre-eclampsia and related problems: a systematic review and commentary. BJOG. 2007 Jun 12; (Epub ahead of print)
Jänne PA, Mayer RJ. Chemoprevention of colorectal cancer. N Engl J Med. 2000;342(26):1960-1968.
Kampman E, Slattery ML, Caan B, Potter JD. Calcium, vitamin D, sunshine exposure, dairy products and colon cancer risk (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2000:11:459-466.
Krall EA, Wehler C, Garcia RI, et al. Calcium and vitamin D supplements reduce tooth loss in the elderly. Am J Med. 2001 Oct 15;111(6):452-456.
Krauss RM, Eckel RH, Howard B, et al. AHA dietary guidelines. Revision 2000: A statement for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2000;102:2284-2299.
Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-1591.
Larsson SC, Orsini N, Wolk A. Dietary calcium intake and risk of stroke: a dose-response meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 97(5):951-957.
Lin Y-C, Lyle RM, McCabe LD, et al. Dairy calcium is related to changes in body composition during a two-year exercise intervention in young women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(6):754-760.
Martin BR, Davis S, Campbell WW, Weaver CM. Exercise and calcium supplementation: effects on calcium homeostasis in sportswomen. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(9):1481-1486.
Myers VH, Champagne CM. Nutritional effects on blood pressure. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2007 Feb;18(1):20-24.
Nakamura K, Saito T, Kobayashi R, et al. Effect of low-dose calcium supplements on bone loss in perimenopausal and postmenopausal Asian women: a reandomized controlled trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2012; 27(11):2264-2270.
NAMS Consensus. Consensus Opinion: the role of calcium in peri-and postmenopausal women: consensus opinion of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2001;8(20):84-95.
Appendix 7. Nutritional goals for age-sex groups based on dietary reference intakes and dietary guidelines recommendations. (2015). http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-7/
Lantzy A. (2015). Neonatal hypocalcemia. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/metabolic,-electrolyte,-and-toxic-disorders-in-neonates/neonatal-hypocalcemia
Lewis JL III. (n.d.). Hypocalcemia (low level of calcium in the blood). http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/hypocalcemia-low-level-of-calcium-in-the-blood
Lewis JL III. (2016). Overview of disorders of calcium concentration. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-disorders/overview-of-disorders-of-calcium-concentration
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015). Calcium and calcium supplements: Achieving the right balance. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calcium-supplements/art-20047097
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Hypoparathyroidism: Overview. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoparathyroidism/basics/definition/con-20030780
National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016). Calcium [Fact sheet]. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium-HealthProfessional/
Skugor M. (2014). Hypocalcemia. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/hypocalcemia/
USDA food composition databases. (n.d.). https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods
What you need to know about calcium supplements. (n.d.). http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoporosis/articles/calcium-supplements.php