Calcium is a nutrient that all living things, including humans, need. It is the most abundant mineral in the body and essential and vital for bone health.
Humans need calcium to build and maintain strong bones. We find 99% of the calcium in the body in the bones and teeth. It is also necessary to maintain healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body.
Calcium plays an essential role in muscle movement and cardiovascular function.
There are many sources of dietary calcium in foods, and food manufacturers add it to specific products. Supplements are also available.
In addition, people also need vitamin D, as this vitamin helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D comes from fish oil, fortified dairy products, and sun exposure.
Why do we need calcium (CA)?
Calcium plays various roles in the body. These include:
About 99% of the calcium in the human body found in the bones and teeth. Calcium is essential for bone development, growth, and maintenance. As children grow, calcium contributes to their bone development.
After a person has stopped growing, calcium continues to help preserve bones and slow bone density loss, which is a normal part of the aging process.
Females who have already gone through menopause can lose bone density at a higher rate than males. They are more likely to develop osteoporosis, and a doctor may recommend calcium supplements.
Calcium helps regulate muscle contraction. When a nerve stimulates a muscle, the body releases calcium.
In other words, calcium helps the proteins in the muscles perform their contractile work.
When the body pumps calcium out of the muscles, the muscles relax.
Calcium plays an essential role in blood clotting. The coagulation process is complex and has many steps. These include a range of chemicals, including calcium.
Calcium’s role in muscle function includes maintaining the functioning of the heart muscle. Calcium relaxes the smooth muscles that surround the blood vessels.
Various studies show a potential link between high calcium consumption and lower blood pressure.
Vitamin D is also necessary for healthy bones, and it helps the body absorb calcium.
Calcium is a cofactor for many enzymes. Without CA, some essential enzymes cannot function well.
Studies have also suggested that adequate CA intake can lead to:
- Reduced risk of conditions, including high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Low blood pressure in young men.
- It lowers blood pressure in mothers who consumed enough CA during pregnancy.
- Improve cholesterol values.
- Reduced risk of colon and rectal polyps, which are a type of non-cancerous tumor.
Dietary sources of calcium
People can get CA from a range of foods and drinks. The following are the sources of calcium:
- Fortified dairy alternatives, such as soy milk
- Sardines and salmon.
- The cheese.
- Green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale leaves, watercress, and kale.
- Many fortified breakfast bowls of cereal.
- Fortified fruit juices.
- Nuts and seeds, especially almonds, sesame, and chia.
- Legumes and grains.
- Corn flour and corn tortilla.
After that, some dark green vegetables, such as spinach, contain CA . However, they also contain higher levels of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium, according to studies.
How much calcium do you need in a day?
Studies show that the amount of CA that people need the following amounts calcium:
- 0-6 months: 200 mg.
- 7 to 12 months: 260 mg.
- 1-3 years: 700 mg.
- 4 to 8 years: 1,000 mg.
- 9-18 years: 1,300 mg.
- 19-50 years: 1,000 mg.
- 51-70 years: 1,000 mg for males and 1,200 mg for females.
- Seventy-one years and older: 1,200 mg.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 1000-1300 mg, depending on age.
A doctor may recommend extra CA for people who:
- In menopause.
- Cessation of menstruation because of anorexia nervosa or excessive exercise.
- Allergy to lactose or cow’s milk allergy.
- Follow a vegetarian diet.
- Lack of calcium.
A doctor may recommend CA supplements for people who have a CA deficiency. People taking calcium supplements should:
- Consult their doctor first if they need supplements.
- Follow the dose recommended by your doctor.
- Take nutritional supplements with food to get better absorption and reduce potentially harmful effects.
- Take the supplement at intervals, usually two or three times a day.
Many CA supplements also contain vitamin D. Vitamin D encourages proteins’ formation and helps the body absorb calcium. Magnesium also plays a role in strengthening bones, and CA supplements may also contain magnesium.
Types of supplements:
There are different nutritional supplements. A doctor can recommend the best option for you; this will depend on the individual’s needs and preferences, any medical condition they have, and whether they are taking any medications.
CA is a pure mineral, but we find its natural form along with other compounds. Supplements may contain different levels of CA compounds and CA elements. For instance:
- CA Carbonate: contains 40% of the element CA. This type is commonly available, relatively inexpensive, and comfortable. People should take it with food because stomach acid helps the body absorb it.
- CA Lactate: Contains 13% of the element CA.
- The Calcium Gluconate: Contains 9% of the element CA.
- CA Citrate: Contains 21% of the element CA. Anyone can take it with or without food. It is beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disease, achlorhydria, and some absorption disorders.
The risks of calcium supplementation:
Research has found conflicting evidence regarding the benefits and drawbacks of supplement use. Most experts agree that it is best to get nutrients from natural food sources, although sometimes it is impossible to get enough this way.
Some studies have suggested, however, that CA supplementation can be dangerous.
Side effects of CA supplements
Some people report digestive symptoms such as bloating, constipation, gas, or a combination of the three when using calcium supplements.
CA citrate usually has less pronounced side effects than CA carbonate. Taking the supplement with food or spreading your intake throughout the day may reduce the incidence or severity of side effects.
Vitamin D and calcium
Vitamin D is essential for CA absorption, which plays a crucial role in maintaining bone strength and a healthy skeleton.
Getting enough vitamin D and CA is critical to maintaining bone health and protecting against osteoporosis disorders, a condition characterized by brittle bones’ weakening.
Children and adults ages 1 to 70 need about 600 international units of vitamin D per day, and it can come from a combination of the best sources of vitamin D and sunlight.
Meanwhile, adults over the age of 70 should aim for at least 800 international units (20 mcg) of vitamin D per day.
The Daily Value (DV), a rating system used on prepackaged food labels, is 800 IU per day.
Calcium needs also vary according to age. Children between the ages of 1 and 8 need about 2,500 mg of CA a day. And those between the ages of 9 and 18 need 3,000 mg a day.
Adults aged 19 to 50 need about 2,500 mg per day and down to 2,000 mg per day for those over 50.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency
Symptoms of CA deficiency do not appear in the first periods. As the body continues to supply itself with its need for calcium by taking it from the bones.
However, prolonged CA deficiency has serious health effects and symptoms, including:
- Confusion, confusion, and memory loss.
- Muscle spasm and tightness.
- Numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face.
- Thinning and weakness of the nails.
- Ease of bone fractures.
CA deficiency can affect all parts of the body. Including slowed hair growth, damaged skin, dullness, and weakness.
In conclusion, CA is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Among other roles, it may also help control blood pressure.
It’s best to get adequate CA from dietary sources of CA. For instance: dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and tofu. However, a doctor may recommend supplementation for some people.
Because of individual differences in requirements, experts do not recommend CA supplements for everyone.
Anyone considering a supplement should consult their health care provider for advice.