Calcium - milk & cheese

Calcium

The most abundant mineral in the body, Calcium is essential for a wide range of body parts and functions. Nearly 99% of the body’s calcium is involved in the maintenance of the bones and teeth, however, calcium also regulates the heart, nerves, muscles and other bodily systems.

What Is Calcium?

Calcium is a chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. It is one of the essential minerals for living organisms and plays a crucial role in various biological processes.

Here are some key points about calcium:

Abundance of Calcium

Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and is found in various minerals, including; limestone, gypsum, and fluorite.

Biological Importance of Calcium

In living organisms, calcium is an essential mineral and a major component of bones and teeth. About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeleton.

Calcium Roles in the Body

Bone Structure: Calcium provides strength and rigidity to bones and teeth, contributing to their structure and density.
Cell Signalling: Calcium ions play a crucial role in cellular signaling. They act as second messengers in various cellular processes, including muscle contraction, neurotransmitter release, and hormone secretion.
Blood Clotting: Calcium is involved in the blood clotting process, where it plays a role in the activation of several clotting factors.
Muscle Contraction: Calcium ions are essential for muscle contraction. They bind to proteins like troponin and initiate the contraction-relaxation cycle in muscle fibers.

Dietary Sources of Calcium

Good dietary sources of calcium include dairy products (such as milk, yogurt, and cheese), leafy green vegetables (such as kale and broccoli), fortified plant-based milk alternatives, and certain fish (like salmon and sardines).

Absorption and Regulation of Calcium

Calcium absorption occurs in the small intestine and is influenced by factors such as vitamin D, dietary components (e.g., oxalates and phytates), and individual differences.

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and calcitonin are hormones involved in the regulation of calcium levels in the blood.

Calcium Deficiency and Excess

Calcium deficiency can lead to conditions like osteoporosis and rickets, affecting bone health.
Excessive calcium intake, especially through supplements, can lead to hypercalcemia, which may cause kidney stones, constipation, and impaired absorption of other minerals.

Calcium Supplements

Calcium supplements are commonly used to ensure an adequate intake, especially in individuals with dietary limitations or those at risk of calcium deficiency. However, it’s important to use supplements under the guidance of a healthcare professional to avoid potential adverse effects.

How does the body use Calcium?

The body does not produce calcium, so it must be consumed through other sources. The most well-known role of calcium is in bone and teeth health. The mineral forms part of hydroxyapatite, a complex that makes the bones and teeth hard and maintains density. Without this complex, the bones become weak and are more susceptible to breaking.

Hydroxyapatite

Hydroxyapatite is a naturally occurring mineral form of calcium apatite, a type of calcium phosphate compound. It is the principal mineral component of vertebrate bones and teeth and is also found in various other tissues in the human body. The chemical formula for hydroxyapatite is Ca₅(PO₄)₃(OH), indicating its composition of calcium, phosphate, and hydroxide ions.

Key characteristics of hydroxyapatite include:

Bone and Tooth Structure: Hydroxyapatite provides strength and rigidity to the structure of bones and teeth. In the human skeleton, bones are primarily composed of hydroxyapatite crystals embedded in a collagen matrix.

Biocompatibility: Hydroxyapatite is biocompatible, meaning it is well-tolerated by the human body. This property makes it useful in medical and dental applications.

Hardness: Hydroxyapatite is a hard mineral, contributing to the hardness and durability of bones and teeth.

Mineralization: In a process called mineralization or biomineralization, hydroxyapatite crystals form in the extracellular matrix of bones and teeth under the influence of cells like osteoblasts.

Dental Applications: Hydroxyapatite is used in various dental materials, including toothpaste and dental implants. It is often employed in dental implants due to its biocompatibility and ability to integrate with natural bone tissue.

Medical Applications: Hydroxyapatite is used in medical applications such as bone grafts and coatings for orthopedic implants. It can aid in the repair and regeneration of bone tissue.

Synthetic Formulations: Synthetic hydroxyapatite can be produced for various applications, including biomaterials and medical coatings. These synthetic forms aim to mimic the properties of natural hydroxyapatite.

Calcium and Phosphate Regulation: Hydroxyapatite is involved in the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels in the body, playing a role in maintaining mineral homeostasis.

It’s important to note that hydroxyapatite is just one form of calcium phosphate, and other variations exist. The balance of calcium and phosphate ions is crucial for the proper formation and maintenance of bone and dental structures. Additionally, research continues to explore the use of hydroxyapatite in various biomedical and dental applications.

Calcium in the Nervous System and Muscles

Calcium also plays an important part in the functioning of the nervous system and the muscles. Calcium in the brain regulates the release of neurotransmitters, which initiate nerve signals. If the nerves do not have the appropriate amount of calcium, chemical signals cannot be sent and disruption in functioning will occur. Additionally, muscle contractions rely on nerve stimulation to move and maintain motion. Calcium also controls the production of the protein calmodulin that delivers energy to the muscles, insulin production and disease prevention.

Calcium Absorption & Other Minerals

Calcium does not function alone. The body needs a complex variety of vitamins and minerals to support bone health as well as overall health. To aid in the absorption of calcium, the body also needs magnesiumvitamin Dvitamin Kvitamin Avitamin B as Folic Acid and vitamin C. Each of these vitamins and minerals plays an important role in the absorption and utilization of calcium, and in turn, the proper functioning of the body’s systems.

Vitamin D is an important co-factor in the absorption of calcium in the small intestines as it increases the number of calcium binding proteins. Vitamin D also aids calcium re-absorption in the kidneys, giving the body a second change to gain calcium.

Magnesium is also important for calcium in the bones, as it inhibits release of Calcium from the bones once it has been absorbed.

Calcium Health Benefits

Calcium does more than just promote strong, healthy bones. This mineral supports nerve and muscle function, regulates cell communication and controls the production of insulin and other hormones. Calcium also plays an important role in preventing several health conditions.

Getting the appropriate amount of calcium may prevent or treat several conditions including:

  • Osteoporosis – The body requires calcium to build and maintain strong, healthy bones. As people age, they lose bone density, leading to bone fracture and osteoporosis. Calcium fortifies the bones and muscles.
  • High Blood Pressure – Research suggests that calcium is linked to lower blood pressure levels.
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – Calcium has been shown to decrease symptoms of PMS, including headache, moodiness, bloating and food cravings, by up to 50%.

Additionally, calcium is important for preventing other health conditions such as stroke, colon cancer, obesity, and hyperparathyroidism.

Calcium Daily Dosage

A health, middle-aged adult requires a daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of calcium. Often dietary intake supplies the recommended amount of calcium when a balanced diet is achieved.

Calcium Supplements

Many individuals do not eat a balanced diet or may have to limit certain sources of calcium for dietary reasons, so in addition to dietary calcium, many supplements are available. Many multivitamin and multi-mineral supplements contain calcium. Additionally, supplements containing only calcium, or calcium in addition to vitamin D or Magnesium are available. Typically, a calcium supplement delivers 200 to 400 milligrams of calcium and is taken by mouth in a tablet or capsule form. The body absorbs calcium most efficiently when a dose of no more than 500 milligrams is taken at a time.

Two types of calcium supplements are generally available – carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate is often considered the less expensive option; however, it must typically be taken with food. Calcium citrate is the more expensive option, but it is a higher quality supplement and may be taken on a full or empty stomach. Gluconate, lactate and phosphate are other forms of calcium that may be found in paired supplements and food.

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Calcium Notes / Side Effects

Maintaining a proper balance of calcium is essential for overall health, and dietary choices play a significant role in achieving this balance. Individuals with specific health concerns or dietary needs should consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice on calcium intake.

References:

BENDICH, A. THE POTENTIAL FOR DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS TO REDUCE PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS) SYMPTOMS [REVIEW]. J AM COLL NUTR. 2000;19(1);3-12.

CALCIUM AND MILK: WHAT’S BEST FOR YOUR BONES AND HEALTH? THE NUTRITION SOURCE: HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. ACCESSED JANUARY 14, 2014.

HELLER, D. WHY YOUR BONES NEED MORE THAN CALCIUM. ANATOMY, ILLNESS PREVENTION. 2012.

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