Calcium is an extremely important nutrient that is needed by the body– much like protein, or the various vitamins that humans need to find in their diet, calcium is needed for many basic functions in the body. If you would like to find out more about calcium, what forms it can take, how much you should be getting, and what it has to do with milk, read on!
Why is Calcium Important?
There are two primary reasons for why the body needs calcium: Firstly, as previously mentioned, calcium is extremely important for the human body to function properly. This is because calcium is used in order to circulate blood, move muscles, and release hormones. Now, if this sounds important, it is because it is– calcium is also used to carry messages from the brain through the nervous system and to the other parts of the body.
Additionally, it is a crucially important part of tooth and bone health. Proper calcium alimentation is needed to ensure the bones, including the teeth, remain strong and dense. It might help some to think of the body’s bones, the skeletal system, as the Bank of Calcium within the body– this is because the body will take calcium from the bones, if there isn’t enough present in a person’s diet. This leads us to the second reason that calcium is a crucial nutrient within the human body.
Humans cannot produce calcium on their own, unlike some of the other nutrients that we utilize. Because of this, people have to rely on the foods that they eat to get the calcium needed for daily activities– however, there are many foods that are high in calcium, and they include:
- Dairy Products including milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Dark Green vegetables including kale and broccoli
- White beans
- In many countries, foods such as breads, cereals, soy products, and orange juice are fortified with calcium.
There is something else that is important to keep in mind. Vitamin D is needed in order to absorb calcium. Put simply, this means that people will not fully benefit from the benefits of a calcium-rich diet or supplement schedule if they are low on Vitamin D. It can be found in many foods including salmon, egg yolks, and some mushrooms and, like calcium, it has been added to many foods in order to fortify them– including milk! This means that it can, in many cases, contain both Vitamin D and Calcium.
However, unlike calcium, human beings are able to synthesize Vitamin D. This is done through the skin, which naturally produces the vitamin whenever it is exposed to sunlight. However, it has been found that those with darker skin do not produce vitamin D as well in this manner. This is because melanin absorbs the ultraviolet light that initiates the process, which means that there is less vitamin D produced by those with more melanin present in the skin. Because of that, supplementation might be necessary in the peoples whom this affects.
Who Needs Calcium?
Well, firstly, everyone, but there are many demographics that, due to a variety of reasons which will be discussed, require more calcium than others.
It has been found, for example, that calcium may ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This study, which was conducted by the International Arvand Medical Sciences University, concluded that women with PMS have lower intakes of calcium and magnesium, and lower serum levels. For the majority of people, a daily dose of 1,000 mg of calcium a day is enough. However, for women over the age of fifty, or those who are pregnant and/or breast-feeding, the recommended daily intake of calcium increases to 1,200 mg daily.
Forms of Calcium
Due to the major medical advancements of the last century, there is no longer simply just calcium. It has been combined with many other elements in order to create supplements that contain different dosages, and are each used for specific purposes. This is quite a bit to unpack for a layman, and so we’ve taken care to highlight the most popular supplemental forms of calcium that are available.
- Calcium Carbonate: Over-the-counter (OTC) antacid products contain calcium carbonate, a source of calcium which is relatively inexpensive and a great source, as each pill or chew provides at least 200 mg of calcium. It is important to note that many calcium supplements do carry with them minor side effects, including constipation, gas, and bloating.
- Calcium Citrate — This is a more expensive form of calcium. It is absorbed well on either an empty or full stomach, but those with lower levels of stomach acid (common in older individuals) benefit from taking calcium citrate instead of calcium carbonate. It may also be used to treat conditions that are traditionally caused by low calcium levels such as bone loss (osteoporosis), weak bones (osteomalacia/rickets), decreased activity of the parathyroid gland (hypoparathyroidism), and a certain muscle disease (latent tetany). Additionally, in adults, it effectively promotes the consolidation and maintenance of bone mass. In conjunction with vitamin D, Calcium Citrate also decreases the risk of bone fracture in the elderly, slows the rate of bone loss in old age, and is of benefit to the health and well‐being of postmenopausal women.
- Calcium Pyruvate — Pyruvate is something that the body naturally produces, and is used by the body to help break down glucose, which is also known as sugar. When combined with the stability of calcium, the resulting product is an extremely powerful fat burner within the body.
- Calcium Gluconate — And finally, there is calcium gluconate. Calcium gluconate is the calcium salt of gluconic acid, and it is an intravenous medication. This means that it is administered through the veins, in an IV bag. IV Therapy is a rapidly growing field of medicine, and many companies are combining supplements such as calcium gluconate with other growth factors and minerals to create powerful, energizing cocktails. Among these is VitaNovas, which provides at-home treatments that include calcium gluconate, among many other minerals, due to its ability to support blood vessels, as well as many hormones and enzymes that depend on calcium levels.
Dosage Information Regarding Calcium
However the human body is a very finely tuned machine. The slightest changes in nutrient amounts can have ripple effects that are felt all throughout– at times, it can take place as fogginess in the head, or in fatigue, feelings of malaise that make even getting out of bed seem like an impossible task. Calcium, because of its importance in bones and locomotion, can lead to many health issues all throughout the body if proper steps are not taken to ensure correct dosage amounts.
A lack of calcium can lead to major health issues. Osteoporosis is a condition that is all too often the result of a diet that is poor in calcium. It results in weaker, frailer, porous bones that easily fracture. This is especially common in older adults, primarily older women, and it is because of this that people recommend that older women consume more calcium than their male counterparts. A clinical lack of calcium is called hypocalcemia, and it carries with it a wide variety of symptoms, which can include:
- Muscle Spasms
- Numbness in the hands, feet, and face
- Muscle Cramps
- Easy Fracturing of the bones
Calcium deficiencies make their effects known all throughout the body, because calcium is important in the heart, the veins, and the muscles– nails will be weaker, hair will be thinner and grow slower, and skin will become fragile.
However, as with any mineral or nutrient, it is important to not take too much– as that can have negative side effects of its own. The symptoms are generally gastrointestinal in nature, including constipation, gas, and bloating. What’s more, extra calcium can increase your risk of kidney stones, and in rare cases it is caused by deposits of calcium in the blood, a condition known as hypercalcemia. This is why it is important to consult with a medical professional before taking any supplements.