Sources of calcium:
Calcium is easily available in milk and milk products like cheese, and yogurt. Excellent sources of calcium include green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, tofu, romaine lettuce, celery. Moreover, nuts, seeds and pulses are also good sources of calcium.
Not all calcium present in food is available to the body. The absorption and retention of calcium depends on various factors. About 20-30% of calcium is absorbed from intestinal tract into bloodstream. Absorption also depends on healthy condition of stomach and intestine and adequate supply of Vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin C and phosphorus. About 100 -200 gram of Calcium is excreted from body through urine and stool.
Functions of Calcium in body:
Calcium plays an important role in the maintenance of health. It has been called the prime instigator of vital activity. This mineral is essential for the proper development of bones and teeth. It is necessary for normal functioning of heart and muscular activity. It aids process of clotting of blood and stimulates enzymes in the digestive process.
Bone strength and Calcium: Thanks to the publicity of suppliers of calcium supplements that most of people including children are aware that calcium is essential for strength of bones. Calcium helps keep bones in its good shape. Density of calcium in bones decides the strength of bones. Bones reach their peak strength and calcium content by about age 30. Aging results in loss of calcium from bones and results in skeletal complaints like arthritis and osteoporosis. Adequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D in daily diet is recommended for healthy, active lifestyle. Intake of calcium supplements is recommended in Osteoporosis, impacting millions of adults across world especially women, resulting in porous and fragile bones. Studies have also shown that calcium helps relieve joint pain in arthritis.
Calcium for healthy teeth: Just like bones, calcium form major part of teeth and responsible for its strength. Adequate intake of calcium during tender age is required for kids to have natural strong teeth.
Calcium and foetal growth: Calcium is required for proper foetal growth, for normal health of mother during pregnancy and lactation. Children who are born to calcium deficient mothers generally suffer from calcium deficiency. These children fail to grow or develop healthy and strong bones. They suffer from indigestion, diarrhea, late and defective teething and low immunity.
Calcium and weight loss: While there are studies which show that more calcium helps lower body weight, however there isn’t any conclusive evidence. Calcium controls various physiological processes including fat metabolism and enzyme or hormone secretion which tends to have impact on body weight. Any deficiency of Calcium in body, stimulates body to release parathyroid hormone which causes bones to release calcium in blood. Similarly parathyroid hormone stimulates production of fat. Right amount of calcium is thus required to prevent any health hazards.
Cardiovascular health and blood pressure: Most research does not show a link between calcium and the risk of heart disease or stroke. However calcium is required for proper functioning of cardiac muscles. Calcium helps maintain blood pressure required for proper functioning of circulatory system. Studies have found high blood pressure linked to calcium deficiency and thus necessary intake of calcium can reduce risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension). In one of the studies, vegetarian diet of fruits and vegetables rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, and fiber helped reduce blood pressure. In “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)” conducted by National Institutes of Health, it was found that calcium intakes results in decreased blood pressure.
Maintaining pH level: Acidity and related diseases have increased over a period of time. This can be attributed to changing lifestyle and dietary pattern of people. Junk food, preserved foods, food high in spices and sugar increases acid production in body and resulting in acidity. Calcium helps to maintain a healthy pH level, thereby improving your vitality and overall health.
Calcium and risk of Cancer: Various studies have been conducted on impact of calcium, calcium supplements on risks of developing cancer of colon or rectum. However there is not conclusive evidence to support the same. Adequate Calcium is said to suppress growth of polyps which lead to colon cancer. In theory suggests, excess unabsorbed calcium in intestine acts as binder and binds cancer promoting agents in intestine and helps body excreted them out of body.
Calcium and kidney stone: Most common form of kidney stone in urinary tract are deposits of calcium and other minerals, eg. Calcium oxalates. However studies have shown that dietary calcium is not the cause of kidney stones, but it is hard water which contains calcium. Oxalates in green vegetables are further causes of kidney stone.
Calcium and female health: Deficiency of calcium in young girls causes late puberty, irregular menstruation, excessive bleeding with crampy pain, anaemia and lower immunity. In case of inadequate supply of calcium during pregnancy, the development of foetus continues by drawing reserve calcium from bones and may result in difficult labour for mother. Bleeding, lack of breast milk, poor concentration are all common symptoms of calcium deficiency. Adequate calcium alleviates premenstrual syndromes like dizziness, mood swings, etc. Calcium has been found useful in menopausal disorders. During menopause, lack of ovarian hormones results in calcium deficiency. Increased intake of calcium during menopause helps overcome conditions like hot flushes, night sweats, leg cramps, irritability, nervousness and mental depression.
Calcium and insomnia: Calcium tends to relax nerves and muscles. Hence drinking warm milk before going to bed is said to give sound and refreshing sleep. Calcium supplements can treat insomnia.
The above are only few of the health benefits of calcium. Various researches are being carried out for impact of calcium on body and quantify health benefits of calcium.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency:
Deficiency of calcium in body first causes changes in bones and muscles. Calcium deficient people look pale and listless, get tired and become lazy. They are more sensitive to cold weather. They become nervous and suffer from mental derangements. Sweating around head even during cold weather is most obvious symptom of calcium deficiency. Deficiency of calcium results in porous and fragile bones, tooth decay, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, insomnia and irritability.
Calcium deficiency in children leads to improper bone mineralization and may cause rickets. Rickets is characterized by bone deformities and slow growth. Tetany is another nervous system condition which is cause in calcium deficiency. Muscle spasms, pain, numbness of hands and feet is seen in tetany. Calcium deficiency also impacts metabolism of other minerals in body like magnesium, iron and resulting in deficiency symptoms of these minerals as well.
Various other nutrients are equally important in calcium metabolism. Vitamin D promotes absorption of Calcium in intestine. Potassium reduces, where as sodium can increases excretion of calcium from urine.
Various calcium supplements are available in the market. Most of multivitamin mineral supplements include calcium in varying amounts. Most of calcium supplements are fortified with Vitamin D. Calcium supplements are mainly in two forms calcium carbonates or calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is part of various OTC antacid products. Other forms of calcium supplements include gluconates, lactate and phosphates of calcium.
However, calcium supplements may result in bloating, gas and constipation in some people. Further liquid calcium supplements are more effective than solid calcium supplements.