WHAT IS CALCIUM?
Calcium is a chemical element which is essential for living organisms, including humans. Calcium’s chemical symbol is “Ca”. It is found in many foods. We need to consume a certain amount of calcium to build and maintain strong bones and healthy communication between the brain and various parts of the body.
The National Health Service (NHS)1, UK, says there is more calcium in the human body than any other mineral.
Calcium continues strengthening the bones of humans until they reach the age of 20-25 years, or when they reach their peak mass. After that age, the element helps bone maintenance as well as slowing down bone density loss, which is a natural part of the aging process. People whose calcium intake is inadequate before the age of 20-25, have a considerably higher risk later on in life of developing brittle bone disease or osteoporosis, because calcium is drawn from the bones as a reserve.
Calcium regulates muscle contraction, including the heartbeat. It also plays a key role in normal blood coagulation (clotting).
Nearly all of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our teeth and bones, where it supports their hardness and structure.
Calcium also plays a role in the release of hormones and enzymes, as well as helping blood vessels move blood around the body. A 2010 study carried out in North Carolina State University found that adequate calcium early in life may protect against obesity later on2.
Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb and retain calcium in the bones.
According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health)3, approximately 43% of all American adults take dietary supplements – 70% of adult females do. Users increase their calcium daily intake by about an average of 300 mg per day through supplements. Adult females are more likely to consume inadequate amounts of calcium compared to adult males.
Calcium rich diets increase women’s lifespans4 – women whose diets are rich in calcium probably live longer than their counterparts whose diets are low in calcium, researchers from McGill University in Canada reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
SOURCE OF CALCIUM
According to health authorities in North America and Western Europe, dietary calcium can be found in several different foods and drinks; they also recommend that we obtain our calcium from a variety of sources.
The following foods and drinks are rich sources of calcium:
- Seaweeds, such as kelp, hijiki and wakame
- Nuts and seeds, including pistachio, sesame, almonds, hazelnuts
- Dandelion leaves
- Many fortified breakfast cereals
- Many fortified drinks, including soy milk and a variety of fruit juices
- Crushed eggshells – they can be ground into a powder and added to foods and/or drinks
CALCIUM SIDE EFFECTS & SAFETY
Calcium is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth or when given intravenously (by IV) and appropriately. Calcium can cause some minor side effects such as belching or gas.
Calcium is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for both adults and children when taken by mouth in high doses. Avoid taking too much calcium. The Institute of Medicine sets the daily tolerable upper intake level (UL) for calcium based on age as follows: Age 0-6 months, 1000 mg; 6-12 months, 1500 mg; 1-3 years, 2500 mg; 9-18 years, 3000 mg; 19-50 years, 2500 mg; 51+ years, 2000 mg. Higher doses increase the chance of having serious side effects. Some recent research also suggests that doses over the recommended daily requirement of 1000-1300 mg daily for most adults might increase the chance of heart attack. This research is concerning, but it is still too soon to say for certain that calcium is truly the cause of heart attack. Until more is known, continue consuming adequate amounts of calcium to meet daily requirements, but not excessive amounts of calcium. Be sure to consider total calcium intake from both dietary and supplemental sources and try not to exceed 1000-1300 mg of calcium per day. To figure out dietary calcium, count 300 mg/day from non-dairy foods plus 300 mg/cup of milk or fortified orange juice.
SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS & WARNINGS:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Calcium is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in recommended amounts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. There is not enough information available on the safety of using calcium intravenously (by IV) during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Low acid levels in the stomach (achlorhydria). People with low levels of gastric acid absorb less calcium if calcium is taken on an empty stomach. However, low acid levels in the stomach do not appear to reduce calcium absorption if calcium is taken with food. Advise people with achlorhydria to take calcium supplements with meals.
High levels of phosphate in the blood (hyperphosphatemia) or low levels of phosphate in the blood (hypophosphatemia): Calcium and phosphate have to be in balance in the body. Taking too much calcium can throw this balance off and cause harm. Don’t take extra calcium without your health provider’s supervision.
Under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism): Calcium can interfere with thyroid hormone replacement treatment. Separate calcium and thyroid medications by at least 4 hours.
Too much calcium in the blood (as in parathyroid gland disorders and sarcoidosis): Calcium should be avoided if you have one of these conditions.
Poor kidney function: Calcium supplementation can increase the risk of having too much calcium in the blood in people with poor kidney function.
Smoking: People who smoke absorb less calcium from the stomach.
How does it work?
The bones and teeth contain over 99% of the calcium in the human body. Calcium is also found in the blood, muscles, and other tissue. Calcium in the bones can be used as a reserve that can be released into the body as needed. The concentration of calcium in the body tends to decline as we age because it is released from the body through sweat, skin cells, and waste. In addition, as women age, absorption of calcium tends to decline due to reduced estrogen levels. Calcium absorption can vary depending on race, gender, and age.
Bones are always breaking down and rebuilding, and calcium is needed for this process. Taking extra calcium helps the bones rebuild properly and stay strong.
OSTEOPOROSIS AND CALCIUM OVERVIEW
Calcium is an important nutrient and is needed for many of the body’s functions, including blood clotting and the proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. Calcium is also critical for the health and strength of bones. Not getting enough calcium can contribute to the development of osteoporosis (porous bones).
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by bones that are thin and fragile and can break (fracture) easily. People with osteoporosis have low bone mass, and low bone mass can result in bone fractures.
Having enough calcium intake in the diet is essential in helping to prevent osteoporosis and helping to prevent the loss of bone mass.
Calcium alone cannot protect a person from bone loss caused by certain medications or diseases, smoking, alcoholism, not enough exercise, or a lack of estrogen. Calcium does help a person maintain healthy bones, though, and it helps children and adolescents grow strong bones. However, only 50%-60% of adults and only 10%-25% of adolescents in the United States get the recommended amount of calcium.
CALCIUM AND BONE MASS
Bones may seem like hard and lifeless structures, but they are, in fact, living tissue. Old bone is constantly broken down (through a process called resorption) by our bodies, and new bone is deposited. Anytime bone is broken down faster than it is deposited, bone weakness and osteoporosis can occur.
Bones are made from collagen and noncollagen proteins and are fortified with calcium. If a person does not take in enough calcium from their diet, the body extracts calcium from the bones, resulting in loss of bone strength and mass. This can ultimately lead to thin, fragile bones and osteoporosis.
More than 90% of a person’s bone mass develops before 20 years of age, and half of that bone mass develops from 11-15 years of age. To have strong bones, children and adolescents need to consume enough calcium to build up the bone mass that they will need throughout their lives.
Even after age 20, a person can help protect his or her bones. Bone mass can still be built up until the early 30s. After that, protecting the amount of bone that already exists comes from consuming enough calcium because calcium is essential in maintaining bone mass.
Calcium works like this:
- After calcium is consumed, several nutrients, especially vitamin D, help the body absorb the calcium.
- The blood transports the calcium that is not needed for other body processes to the bones where it adds to the bone mass and is stored for when it is needed in the rest of the body.
- Sometimes a lack of calcium comes from not consuming enough in the diet or because the body is not absorbing enough into the blood. When this happens, calcium is removed from the bones into the blood to keep a constant level of calcium in the blood.
Adequate calcium intake is important to keep a normal amount of calcium in the blood and to protect the bones from calcium loss. If enough calcium is not regularly consumed and the calcium continues to be taken from the bones, a person’s bone mass decreases. Decreased bone mass can lead to osteoporosis, fractures, and disability.
Adequate calcium intake is also important because the body cannot produce calcium on its own. Every day, the body loses calcium through shedding hair, skin, and nails and through sweat, urine, and feces. Every day, this lost calcium must be replaced by what a person eats.
- Colorectal cancer. Research suggests that high intake of dietary or supplemental calcium reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Research also shows that taking calcium supplements might help to keep colorectal cancer from returning. However, people with low levels of vitamin D do not seem to benefit from calcium supplements.
- Fluoride poisoning. Taking calcium by mouth, together with vitamin C and vitamin D supplements, seems to reduce fluoride levels in children and improve symptoms of fluoride poisoning.
- High cholesterol. Taking calcium supplements along with a low-fat or low-calorie diet seems to modestly reduce cholesterol. Taking calcium alone, without the restricted diet, does not seem to lower cholesterol.
- High blood pressure. taking calcium supplements seems to reduce blood pressure slightly (usually around 1-2 mmhg) in people with or without high blood pressure. calcium seems to be more effective in salt-sensitive people and people who normally get very little calcium. taking calcium by mouth also seems to be helpful for reducing blood pressure in people with serious kidney disease.
- Stroke. There is some evidence that increasing calcium intake in the diet might decrease the risk of stroke.
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia). Taking 1-2 grams of calcium by mouth daily seems to reduce pregnancy-related high blood pressure. Calcium appears to reduce the risk of high blood pressure in pregnancy by about 50%. Calcium appears to have the greatest effect in high-risk women and women with low calcium levels.
- Tooth loss. Taking calcium and vitamin D by mouth appears to help prevent tooth loss in older people.
- Weight loss. Adults and children with low calcium intake are more likely to gain weight, have a higher body mass index (BMI), and be overweight or obese compared to people with high calcium intake. Researchers have studied whether increasing calcium intake might help with weight loss. Some clinical research shows that increasing calcium consumption from dairy products, such as yogurt, increases weight loss, lean body mass, and body fat loss in people on a low-calorie diet as well as people on a regular unrestricted-calorie diet.
CALCIUM FOR GROWING CHILDREN
Milk has always been a must-have in kids’ diets. Nothing compares to a tall, cold glass of milk. With 15 essential nutrients, milk is a good source for the calcium and protein that kids need along with other essential growth nutrients.
Calcium is a key building block for strong, healthy bones. But most kids ages 9 to 18 don’t get the recommended 800 milligrams of calcium per day. That’s not surprising when you consider that many kids now drink more soda and caffeinated beverages than milk, which is one of the best sources of calcium. But at every age, from infancy to adolescence, calcium is one nutrient that kids simply can’t afford to skip.
What Calcium Matters so much?
Calcium plays an important role in bone formation, muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. When kids get enough calcium and physical activity during childhood and the teen years, they can start out their adult lives with the strongest bones possible.
If blood calcium levels are low (due to poor calcium intake), calcium is taken from the bones to ensure normal cell function. Younger kids and babies with little calcium and vitamin D intake (which aids in calcium absorption) are at increased risk for rickets (a bone-softening disease that causes severe bowing of the legs, poor growth, muscle pain and weakness)
By the end of adolescence, 90% to 95% of a child’s total bone density is already built from the calcium and vitamin D they’ve consumed. That means that kids can’t make up later for these key nutrients they get from dairy products like milk if they miss out on them when young. It’s critical that they drink enough milk while they’re growing.
Good Sources of Calcium
For growing kids and teens alike, nothing’s better than milk. Cheese and most dairy food like yogurt, cottage cheese are rich sources of calcium. It is also found in fish, white meat, nuts like walnut, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts, different types of beans, like chick peas, kidney beans, moong beans and vegetables like broccoli. Also, it is important to provide Vitamin D as it works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Good sources of Vitamin D are butter, margarine, eggs and fatty fish, fortified cereals and fortified milk. It is a good idea to let your kid get enough sunlight during morning hours, so as to have appropriate vitamin D absorption and synthesis.
How much Calcium do kids need?
For optimal bone health, ICMR recommends:
•1 to 9 years old — 600 milligrams of calcium daily
•10 to 17 years old —800 milligrams of calcium daily
If you don’t think your kids are getting the nutrients needed, talk to your doctor about modifying their diet or using vitamin supplements.
Minding Your Milk
Milk and other dairy products are among the best and most convenient sources of calcium you can find. But just who should get what kind of milk and when?
Infants under 2years old only be given breast milk as major source of nutrition during the first two years .For first six months, kids should be exclusively breastfed and complimentary foods should be started six months onwards.
After age 2, most kids can switch to regular milk.The good news is that all milk from skim to whole contains about the same amount of calcium per serving.
When Kids Can’t or Won’t Eat Dairy
Some kids can’t or won’t consume dairy products. Here are some ways to make sure they get enough calcium:
Kids with lactose intolerance: Kids with lactose intolerance don’t have enough of the intestinal enzyme (lactase) that helps digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy products. These kids may have cramps or diarrhea after drinking milk or eating dairy products. Fortunately, low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products are available. Hard, aged cheeses (such as cheddar) are also lower in lactose, and yogurts that contain active cultures are easier to digest and much less likely to cause lactose problems.
Kids with milk allergy: The proteins in milk might cause allergic reactions in some people. Talk to your doctor if you think your child may be allergic to milk. For older kids, good alternatives to milk and milk products include calcium-enriched rice or soy milk (if soy is tolerated), vegan products (such as vegan
cheese), and other soy-based (again, if soy is tolerated) or rice-based frozen desserts, sorbets, puddings. Talk to your doctor about your child’s condition and the right diet to follow.
Kicking Up the Calcium:Of course, some picky eaters just don’t like the idea of dairy products. To make sure they get enough calcium, try these creative tactics.
Add cheese to meals and snacks:
- Put some cheese in an omelette, sandwiches, rolls or wraps, salads etc
- Create mini-pizzas by topping whole-wheat muffins or bagels with pizza sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese and toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, or chunks of grilled chicken
- Make grilled cheese sandwiches or piece of cheese appealing by using cookie cutters to create hearts, stars, and favourite animal shapes
- Top vegetables (especially those that usually prompt an “Ick!” or an “Ew!”) with melted low-fat cheese
- Put some creativity in regular milk by adding a touch of fruits by making fruit shakes. Steer clear of store-bought flavored milk drinks, though, which can be packed with unnecessary sugar
- For dessert or an afternoon snack:
- Serve frozen yogurt topped with fruit
- Create parfaits with layers of plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain cereal
- Give kids a glass of ice-cold milk to wash down a couple of favourite cookies or graham crackers
HOW TO USE CALCIUM TO GROW TALLER?
It is possible to add a couple of inches to your body by using calcium even after 24. However this depends on several things like your diet, lifestyle and habits. Here are some things you can try:
- Have a glass of milk everyday and eat foods that are rich in Vitamin D. Several fruits and vegetables have small doses of Vitamin D in them.
- Exercises like walking and jogging or going to the gymnasium, help in better absorption of calcium by the body. When you exercise, the body fat gets used and the calcium gets absorbed by the bones. This will help you to grow taller.
- Have a calcium supplement every day. However, this should be teamed up with exercise.
What Diet to Take Along With Calcium for Growing Taller?
When you are depending on calcium supplements, stick to a healthy diet plan. Here are some key points to consider.
- Protein: High protein is very important for your diet. Protein breaks down calcium and calcium processes protein. Protein is available in all meat products, eggs and several green leafy vegetables.
- Greens: Eat at least one serving of greens every day. They are very helpful in processing calcium in your body.
- Milk: Milk has calcium and Vitamin D as well. It can work well with the calcium supplement that you are taking.
- Exercises: Exercises like pushups and jumping help in height growth. These forms of exercises tell the body to increase the length of the bone. This is only possible if there is calcium available in the body.
Calcium adverse effects – Heart attack
Some doctors think it’s possible that taking calcium supplements may increase your risk of a heart attack. Other doctors believe that calcium supplements have little or no effect on your heart attack risk.
There’s concern about calcium supplements and heart attack risk because many people take calcium supplements to treat or prevent bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health suggests there is an increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases from taking calcium supplements for men only. Other studies suggest there is an increased risk for both men and women.
It’s thought that the calcium in supplements could make its way into fatty plaques in your arteries — a condition called atherosclerosis — causing those plaques to harden and increase your risk of heart disease.
More research is needed before doctors know the effect calcium supplements may have on your heart attack risk. The calcium supplements that some doctors are concerned about are those that contain only calcium — not supplements that combine calcium and vitamin D or multivitamin supplements. Calcium from food sources, such as dairy and green leafy vegetables, is not a concern.
Current recommendations regarding calcium supplements for people who have, or have risk factors for, osteoporosis haven’t changed. As with any health issue, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine what’s best in your case.
Calcium dose and instructions for use
The Department of Health has set a reference nutrient intake (RNI) for calcium. Getting this amount from your diet, with or without supplements, may be enough to keep your bones healthy. Your doctor may recommend higher doses, depending on your needs.
Category Calcium:Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI)
0-12 months 525 mg/day
1-3 years 350 mg/day
4-6 years 450 mg/day
7-10 years 550 mg/day
11-18 years (females) 800 mg/day
11-18 years (males) 1,000 mg/day
Adults 700 mg/day
Women who are pregnant do not require more calcium, but those who arebreastfeeding are recommended to have 1,250mg/day.