Calcium

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.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
The Food and Nutrition Board has developed a table of recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of calcium, based on age and gender. The values are:

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

 

Precautions

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.

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