What Is Calcium?
Calcium (Ca) is a mineral that is most frequently linked to strong bones and teeth, but it also plays a critical role in assisting with muscular contraction, and regulating regular heartbeats and nerve activity. The body stores about 99% of its Ca in the bones, with the remaining 1% being present in the blood, muscle, and other tissues. (Source)
What Are The Functions Of Ca?
Bone and Teeth Health: Calcium is a major component of bones and teeth, providing strength and rigidity. It is essential for bone development and maintenance, and it helps prevent conditions like osteoporosis (Source)
Muscle Contraction: Calcium is critical for muscle function. When a nerve signal stimulates a muscle, it causes the release of calcium ions, which enable muscle fibers to contract. (Source)
Blood Clotting: Calcium plays a crucial role in the blood clotting process. When there is an injury, calcium helps initiate the formation of blood clots to stop bleeding. (Source)
Nerve Transmission: Calcium is involved in transmitting nerve signals throughout the body. It allows nerve cells to communicate with one another and helps regulate the release of neurotransmitters.
Cell Signaling: Calcium acts as a second messenger in various intracellular signaling pathways. It is involved in gene expression, enzyme activation, and other cellular processes.
Cardiovascular Function: Calcium is essential for the normal functioning of the heart. It influences the contraction of cardiac muscles and helps regulate heart rhythm
Hormone Secretion: Calcium is necessary for the secretion of hormones and enzymes. It plays a role in the release of hormones from endocrine glands, helping to regulate various physiological processes.
How Much Calcium Do I Need? What Are The Recommended Amounts?
*Adequate Intake (AI)
- For 19 to 50 years old women, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1,000 mg per day.
- The RDA for lactating and pregnant women is 1,000 mg.
- For women 51+ and beyond, it is 1,200 mg.
- The RDA for men is 1,000 mg for those 19 to 70 years old and
- 1,200 mg for 71 and above men
What Happens If There Is Excess Of Calcium?
High Ca intakes (more than 1,500 mg per day) may cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea.
What Are The Food Sources Of Ca? What Are The Foods that Contain Calcium?
Sources of Ca include milk, cheese, and other dairy products, green leafy vegetables like curly kale, bak choy, Spinach (spinach contains high levels of calcium but the body cannot process it all), vegetables like okra, broccoli, fruits like orange, fig, strawberry, blackberries, fortified foods like soy milk, almond milk, bread, whole grain like quinoa, amaranth and fish where you can eat the bones like sardines and pilchards. (Source)
Deficiency Of Calcium: The Possible Disorders And Their Symptoms
Ca levels in the blood are closely regulated. If the diet does not contain enough Ca, the bones will release it into the blood, but generally, no symptoms appear. Hypocalcemia, a more severe calcium deficit, is brought on by conditions including kidney failure, digestive tract operations like gastric bypass, or drugs like diuretics that prevent absorption.
Symptoms of hypocalcemia:
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Numbness or tingling in fingers
- Abnormal heart rate
- Poor appetite
People who consistently consume insufficient Ca from their diets or who see a decline in their ability to absorb calcium may develop a gradual, progressive calcium shortage. Osteopenia is the first early stage of bone loss, and if left untreated, osteoporosis develops. People at risk include, for example:
- Postmenopausal women—Estrogen, a hormone that increases calcium absorption and helps the mineral stay in bones, is produced in reduced quantities during menopause. Occasionally, doctors will recommend estrogen and progesterone-based hormone replacement treatment (HRT) to fend off osteoporosis.
- Amenorrhea—Menstrual irregularities that cause periods to end early or to be disrupted are a common symptom of anorexia nervosa in young women and are also common in athletes who engage in intense physical training.
- Milk allergy or lactose intolerance—Occurs when the body cannot digest the sugar in milk, lactose, or the proteins in milk, casein or whey. Lactose intolerance can be genetic or acquired (not consuming lactose in the long-term may decrease the efficiency of the lactase enzyme).
Toxicity Of Calcium: What Happens in case of Excess Ca?
Hypercalcemia refers to an excessive amount of calcium in the blood. The daily Upper Limit (UL) for calcium from diet and supplements is 2,500 mg. More than 2,000 mg per day, especially from supplements, should be avoided by people over 50 as this can raise the risk of certain illnesses such as kidney stones, prostate cancer, and constipation.
According to certain studies, excessive doses of calcium taken over an extended period of time can build up in the blood arteries of some individuals and result in heart issues. Large minerals like calcium can prevent the absorption of other minerals like zinc and iron.
Hypercalcemia signs and symptoms:
- Weakness, fatigue
- Nausea, vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations, irregular heart rate