Calcium for Health: Precautions while using supplements
Confer with your doctor before embarking on calcium supplementation
What is Calcium?: Uses of Calcium
Calcium is actually the most abundant mineral present in the human body; however estimates suggest that adults get only about half the amount of calcium they need. A wide array of calcium supplements are available in the market; but, selecting the right supplement has a crucial implication on your health. Here are certain facts associated with dietary calcium:
- A majority of calcium is stored in the teeth and the bones, which provides strength and structure to the musculoskeletal system. Deficiency may result in osteoporosis which is associated with a wide range of disorders.
- Certain amount of calcium circulates in the blood and plays a critical role in transporting nutrients across the cell membranes.
- Calcium is also essential for the production of hormones and enzymes which regulate digestion and metabolism in the body.
- Calcium plays a pivotal part in blood clotting, transmission of electrical impulses across the nerves and muscular contraction.
- Recommended dietary intake of calcium ranges between 800 mg to 1200 mg depending upon the age. Females are recommended to take higher doses especially after menopause.
Health Implications of Calcium Deficiency
Studies have shown that our body can absorb the required amount of calcium up to the age of 35 years, after which calcium absorption reduces significantly. Reduced absorption of calcium is linked to reduced levels of magnesium, which plays a vital role in enhancing calcium absorption. Here are some key features associated with calcium deficiency:
- Calcium is essential to maintain normal bone density and muscular function. Deficiency is associated with bone weakness and muscular spasms which is manifested in the form of lower back pain, joint pain, higher risk of fractures and recurrent spasms in the muscles.
- Studies have shown that calcium decreases the incidence of colon cancer. This is primarily attributed to the ability of calcium to limit the irritating effects of bile acids on the colon. Deficiency of calcium can increase the risk of colon cancer.
- Calcium has also shown beneficial results in lowering blood pressure, with effect equivalent to prescription drugs. As per a study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, analysis of data from 40 different studies was conclusive on the role of dietary calcium in reducing blood pressure. Calcium travels into the smooth muscle cells on the walls of the blood vessels and provides greater contractibility and thereby controls blood pressure. Deficiency of calcium can increase the risk of hypertension.
Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium deficiency is often linked to osteoporosis and problems related to the musculoskeletal system. However, researchers in Netherlands, observed that an intake of 1000 grams of calcium supplements each day reduced systolic blood pressure by 1.9 units and diastolic pressure, by 1 unit among the study sample of approximately 2400 individuals. Other studies have indicated the role of calcium in averting colon cancer.
Here are some key foods that are high in Calcium:
- Cheese is considered to be a high source of calcium
- Tofu / Tempeh is the second best source
- Nuts like almonds and brazil nut are also loaded with calcium
- Flax seeds are also a good source
- Yoghurt, milk and other dairy sources are loaded with calcium and vitamin D
- Green leafy vegetables like mustard, dandelion green, kale, collards, and turnips are good sources of calcium.
- Herring is another great source
Precautions while using Calcium Supplements/ High Calcium Foods
Though calcium is decidedly beneficial, certain considerations are essential while taking calcium supplements. It is always recommended that you consult your physician before taking any supplements. Calcium supplements often contain magnesium, which is considered to enhance the absorption of calcium.
- Calcium supplements made from oyster shells, bone meal or dolomite contain high levels of lead, which in turn can be very harmful to health.
- Excess calcium is excreted through the kidneys and hence individuals with kidney disorders should avoid calcium supplements or take them only after the physician’s consultation.
- Foods like cheese and dairy products are often high in cholesterol and fats. Foods that are low in fats should be ideally preferred to protect the heart.