Calcium – Find Out Its Benefits for your Bones

Calcium – Find Out Its Benefits for your Bones

We constantly hear how important Calcium is to keep our bones and teeth strong, especially in such important stages as growth, menopause, pregnancy and lactation, for physical exercise…

But, do we know what it actually is? What it is for? What problems can we have with a lack or an excess of this mineral? Which are the best sources?

What is Calcium?

It is the most abundant mineral in our bodies.

Most of this mineral (99%) makes up the structures of the bones and teeth, the rest is found in the blood and extra-cellular fluids.

The most important Functions of Calcium

We can summarize them in this four points:

  • The first is its structural function, since it is vital for the formation and regeneration of bone tissue.
  • This mineral is also very important for the proper transmission of nerve signals (nerve excitability) and for the regulation of the heartbeat.
  • It also has a regulatory function, since it is involved in the proper permeability of the membranes.
  • Other than that, calcium is also essential for a good muscle tone and the correct functioning of the digestive enzymes.

Vitamin D is indispensable to absorb calcium

  • It is one of the most common chemical elements in nature and it is present in the body in large quantities. Without it, it would be impossible to build and keep the bones healthy.
  • The intestine is in charge of absorbing this mineral, its supply is controlled there by endogenous hormones in the parathyroid gland as well as by vitamin D.
  • A lack of this element can cause deficiencies in the bones, loss of teeth and osteoporosis.
  • In adults, a 99% of the calcium (between 1 and 1.5 kg) is in the bones and teeth. The rest is distributed among cells, tissues and blood.
  • Calcium is abundant especially in milk and dairy products, as well as mineral water, several types of cabbage and walnuts.

It is not only involved in the formation of bones and teeth, but it is also necessary for the heart and the muscles. Without this essential mineral, they may not work properly otherwise.

Effects and properties of Calcium

  • Indispensable to keep the bones and teeth strong and healthy
  • Helps to improve bone density, along with vitamin D3 and K2
  • Essential for maintaining a good bone density
  • Important for the energy-yielding metabolism
  • Plays an important role in the correct functioning of the muscles
  • Crucial for the transmission of signals between nerve cells
  • Ensures a normal blood coagulation process
  • Necessary for the cell division process
  • Contributes to the proper functioning of digestive enzymes
It is indispensable for the activation of the enzymes that are involved in the muscle contraction.

Calcium is recommended for:

  • Osteoporosis and its prevention
  • Allergies
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Long-term cortisone treatments
  • Growth stages in children and adolescents
  • Cases of diabetes mellitus
  • Lactose intolerance
  • A high fat or high protein diet

What foods contain calcium?

  • Animal origin: milk and its derivatives, fatty fish (tuna, sardines, anchovies, shrimp, clams, mussels, octopus…)
  • Plant origin: nuts (better if they are not toasted) hazelnuts, walnuts or sunflower seeds. Dehydrated fruit, such as figs, plums and dates are good sources of calcium. Seeds such as soy, sesame, flax, chia and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans.
Milk is rich in calcium

Mineral water is also a source of calcium. There are other foods that also contain this element, but not in great amounts: cabbage, broccoli, leeks or onions.

The calcium-rich foods can be summarized as follows: legumes, nuts, dairy products and fatty fish. Other good sources of calcium are cereals, milk, cheese, yogurt (dairy products in general) and juices. Choose low-fat cheese or fat-free dairy products to limit the intake of saturated fats which can be found in whole milk. A 2000 calorie diet should include three servings of dairy products per day.

However vegetable calcium is not absorbed by the body as well as the one from milk or supplements.

People with some kind of allergy to milk or a lactose intolerance can easily suffer a calcium deficiency. As we have already seen, it is an essential mineral to keep the bones and muscles healthy, for the health of the nervous system and the release of certain hormones. Calcium supplements are the best option in this case, since even though it can be obtained from whole foods, calcium from this vegetable sources is not very bioavailable.

Even so, many non-dairy products are rich in calcium and can be easily added to the diet. Some examples are:

  • Soy milk enriched with calcium
  • Enriched orange juice
  • Canned fish (85g of pink salmon provide 180mg of calcium and 85g of sardines provide 300mg)
  • Vegetables (broccoli or leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium)
  • Tofu (provides 138mg per 1/2 cup)
  • Rhubarb

What are the symptoms of a lack of Calcium?

  • Pain, fractures or deformity and bone diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteomalacia
  • Caries and periodontitis
  • Rickets (children)
  • Tetany (hyper excitability)
  • Digestive disorders
  • Heart and blood pressure problems/diseases
  • Cataracts
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Dry skin, eczema, hair loss, brittle nails
  • Nervous hyperexcitability
  • Tingling or tickling sensation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Incontinence
What are cramps

An excess of calcium in the diet can also be dangerous, since it can cause kidney stones (accumulation of calcium in the kidney), hypertension, vomits, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.

Absorption of Calcium

The absorption of this element occurs in the intestine, mainly in the duodenum. It can also be partly absorbed in the colon.

There are nutritional factors that improve or hinder the absorption of this mineral. Therefore, it is essential to take them into account if there is a calcium deficiency.
  • Factors that increase assimilation: vitamin D, acidic pH (medium acid), lactose (with babies).
  • Factors that reduce the assimilation of calcium: lack of vitamin D, fiber, high fat diets, medications (diuretics, anti-acid…), aging (intestinal absorption deteriorates with age), diarrhea, caffeine, etc.

Intake and dose of calcium

Depending on the health authorities of each country, the recommended daily levels of calcium range between 450-1200 mg. This causes certain uncertainty, moreover, the amount of calcium absorbed by the body may vary depending on the diet, age and the simultaneous intake of vitamin D.

Children, adolescents, pregnant women and infants tend to absorb between a 60 to 75 per cent of their calcium through food. In adults, the absorption is usually around a 30 or 40% and it deteriorates with age.
Taking a dietary calcium supplement is recommended in order to prevent the removal of its reserves of the body and the risk of bone decalcification.

Who can especially benefits from taking calcium?

  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • Children and adolescents
  • Vegetarians/vegans
  • Those permanently taking cortisone
  • Diabetics
  • Women over the age of 45 and men over the age of 60
  • People with lactose intolerance
  • Osteoporosis patients
  • All those who suffer sun allergy
Calcium for bone health

What the experts say about calcium:

1. Calcium guarantees a perfect smile

A clinical study has shown that lowering the daily dose of calcium, from 800 to 1000 mg, carries the risk of gum disease, the main cause of tooth loss. This is probably due to the fact that we can resist attacks from the bacteria responsible for periodontitis with high calcium levels.

2. Calcium prevents bone loss

A proper calcium intake is essential, especially for the elderly, since it helps to prevent bone loss. Taking calcium supplements is also useful for preventing the onset of osteoporosis. This calcium should be preferably taken along with a meal, to improve its absorption.

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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
"Knowledge Makes Stronger", Javier Colomer's motto, sets out his clearest statement of intentions expressing his knowledge and fitness experience.
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