Calcium


Most people are pretty familiar with calcium and the important role it plays in our health. At least, they think they are. Let us examine a little further as to just how calcium helps you stay your best in more ways than you probably realized.

What Is It?

Calcium is a mineral founds in at least small amounts in most living this. It makes up part of our planet, part of foods we consume, and part of our bodies as well.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Calcium is most closely associated with the proper formation and maintenance of strong, healthy bones. However, this is an oversimplification of the role this absolutely essential mineral plays in our health. Calcium is indeed necessary to grow strong bones [1] that can stand up to the stressors of everyday life.

Without it our bones would become porous; porous bones are weak and brittle which makes them prone to breakage. Our bones also act like a storage system [2] for calcium--because calcium is needed for other things in our bodies, our body will sometimes take calcium out of our bones to supplement blood levels with calcium if we are not getting enough from our diet.

This is why it’s important to ensure we are constantly getting enough calcium. Other than healthy bones, calcium is also partly responsible for proper function of our cardiovascular, nervous, and digestive systems.

It assists here by helping to regulate blood pressure, protect against intestinal cancer, regulate clotting of blood, and help to reduce certain types of inflammation.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

When you sweat, part of that sweat contains some of your body’s calcium supply. For a lot of fitness enthusiasts or even competitive athletes, the measure of a good workout is making sure you get good and sweaty.

This can, unfortunately, also reduce your body’s stores of calcium. In response your body will pull more calcium out of your bones to replenish the blood’s calcium supply. Over time this cycle can results in loss of bone density, which leaves you at higher risks for bone breakage.

Studies on this phenomenon have shown that calcium supplements can help prevent this loss of bone density. Interestingly, the study also showed that calcium supplements for this purpose were most effective when taken about half an hour prior to exercising.

What Foods Contain It?

Calcium is most commonly found in dairy products, including all varieties of milk, cheeses, and yogurts. It is worth noting that whether a dairy product contain full-fat, 2%, or skim milk has no effect on the amount of calcium it contains.

Other dietary sources of calcium include collard green, kale, canned salmon, and fortified products. For vegetarians, certain brands of soymilk or tofu products are fortified with calcium in the same way breakfast cereals are.

This can be a good way for anyone who doesn’t consume dairy regularly to boost their calcium intake.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

Recommended levels [3] of calcium consumption vary depending upon age and individual need. Most adults are fine consuming 1,000mg to 1,200mg per day. There is a limit to how much calcium your body can effectively absorb at one time, so it is also recommended to evenly distribute your calcium intake throughout the day.

Additionally, low levels of vitamin D can prevent calcium absorption so anyone supplementing with calcium to assist with a poor diet or medical concerns may want to consider also supplementing with vitamin D to ensure they get the full benefits of the calcium.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Calcium can cause constipation; if taking as a supplement it is generally useful to also supplement magnesium to help avoid this problem. Consistently high calcium intake can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and increased urination. This can eventually cause problems with proper kidney function and even cause irregular heartbeat.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Calcium deficiency can cause a wide array of symptoms. Typically these will begin with more minor symptoms such as muscle cramps, lethargy, and numbness in the body. This can progress to more serious symptoms such as confusion, skin rashes or irritation, and even skeletal malformation. Calcium deficiency in infants can cause rickets, and calcium deficiency in older adults is known to be a contributing factor for osteoporosis.

It looks like all of those milk commercials you saw as a child were right--it is definitely important to get your daily dose of calcium and vitamin D! Yes, for healthy bones. Also, though, for so much more.

Keeping your heart healthy, along with many other important jobs. Calcium is a crucial part of any diet aimed at helping you feel your best. While supplements can help with this, as always it is helpful to get the majority of your required nutrients from whole foods that already have everything you need smartly packaged to be as bioavailable as possible.

References:

[1] Beto,Judith A. The Role Of Calcium in Human Aging. National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, 2015.

[2] Chronic Conditions Team. Is Your Body Stealing Calcium From Your Bones?. Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, 2015.

[3] National Osteoporosis Foundation. Calcium/ Vitamin D. National Osteoporosis Foundation, 2017.