Calcium is one of the well-known essential minerals that is required by the body in large quantities.
Being the most abundant mineral present in the human body, calcium plays a very important role in the healthy functioning of the body mainly in bone development, cellular functions, and prevention of diseases.
Of all the minerals present in the body, calcium represents about 40% and in that 99% of calcium is present in the bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is present in the body fluids.
Why is Calcium Important?
Along with bone health, calcium plays a vital role in blood clotting, regulating cellular functions and metabolism, nerve impulse transmission, and muscle contraction.
Apart from these, It may also play an important role in the immune system, regulating blood pressure, reducing the risk of colon cancer and kidney stones.
Calcium is a critical nutrient required for the growth, maintenance, and repair of the bones. which serve as the reservoirs of calcium in the body.
As the bones begin to form, calcium salts form crystals on the collagen matrix and later on begin dense to give strength and rigidity of the bones.
Adequate intake of minerals like calcium from early ages is very important for maintaining the bone health such that to prevent from conditions like osteoporosis.
Importance of Calcium during Pregnancy and Lactation
The requirement of calcium is greatly increased during pregnancy and lactation. Significant changes occur to the calcium reserves during pregnancy in order to meet the fetal calcium needs.
This is because calcium is required by the fetus for its skeleton development and several other functions. The requirement is even more during the last few months of pregnancy as the fetus starts storing calcium at a rapid rate.
It is also required for maintaining the proper functioning of the body in pregnant women and is also known to improve the milk yield during lactation.
Calcium also plays an important role in helping the immune system of the body by signaling and stimulating certain immune cells.
Calcium itself acts as a factor in the process of blood clotting and is also essential for the activation of several other blood clotting factors.
Calcium along with vitamin K plays a vital role in blood clotting. Having fewer levels of these in the body may result in a longer blood clotting time than normal.
Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health
Taking a healthy diet is important for maintaining a healthy heart. Minerals like calcium play an important role in the regulation of cardiovascular function and blood pressure.
Inadequate intake of calcium might also be related to hypertension.
Plays a key role in Muscle Function
Most of us know calcium is an important mineral required for muscle functioning as it plays a crucial role in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Our muscle cells contain proteins called actin, myosin, troponin, and tropomyosin. which play a key role in muscle moment.
During muscle contraction, calcium ion binds to the troponin-tropomyosin complex which leads to a series of events causing actin and myosin to move towards each other and cause muscle contraction. In the absence of calcium, troponin and tropomyosin move back and actin and myosin separate causing muscles to relax.
Inadequate intake for long-term may result in muscle cramps, numbness, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
Nerve Impulse Transmission
Nerve cells transmit small electrical signals that travel across neurons to transmit a message across the body. Calcium is one of the important minerals that help to carry out these nerve impulses.
Calcium with phospholipids and proteins plays a vital role in maintaining cell membrane permeability and integrity.
Taking adequate amounts of calcium is necessary for the healthy functioning of the body. If the calcium ingested don’t meet the requirements, the body starts pulling it from its deposits, the bones. Over a period of time, this may lead to conditions like osteoporosis and also increase the risk of bone fractures.
If the calcium levels in the body are low, this may lead to several problems related to nerves and muscles like seizures, muscle cramps, and twitches.
Presence of low calcium in children can result in rickets. Hypocalcemia may also lead to failure of heart muscles, abnormal heartbeats, osteomalacia in adults.
The complications mentioned as a result of calcium deficiency might not be only due to the inadequate intake. But also might be due to low calcium absorption caused as a result of the improper working of parathyroid glands or not having enough vitamin D or due to certain medications.
How much amount of calcium is required?
The dosage of calcium depends on the individual and also on the severity of the disorder (if any).
In general, calcium recommendations are set to 1300 mg during the adolescence (9-18 years), as the body requires high amounts of calcium for the skeleton development.
Between the ages of 19 and 50, the calcium recommended per day is 1000 mg. The recommendations are high in people over 50 years up to 1500 mg to minimize the bone loss.
For the children between the ages of 1-3 years the recommended amount is 700 mg and for those between 4-8 years is 1000mg.
Taking calcium in low levels for a short-term may not affect your body much. However, inadequate calcium intake over the long term may result in serious risks like osteoporosis, osteomalacia.
Sources of Calcium
Dairy products such as Milk and cheese are the most common, rich and popular sources for calcium.
Good amounts of calcium can also be found in some green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale.
Other sources include tofu, nuts, sesame seeds and certain kinds of fish like sardines.
Certain foods that are rich in Vitamin-D and lactose can improve calcium absorption in the body at the same time foods rich in caffeine can decrease the absorption.
Risks of Excessive intake
Excessive intake of calcium may cause constipation, nausea, irritability, headache and may also decrease the absorption of iron and zinc.