Calcium is an essential mineral, most abundantly found in the body. For calcium to get properly absorbed, the body requires other important nutrients like Vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorous.
Health Benefits of Calcium
Calcium is vital to maintain healthy bones and teeth and to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. While food sources are the best way to get daily requirement of calcium, those who are at risk of suffering from calcium deficiency can take calcium supplements. The right amount of calcium is needed to treat or avert the following medical conditions.
Benefits in Osteoporosis : Bone tissue is constantly in flux being broken down by cells called osteoclasts and remodeled by cells called osteoblasts. From the age of 30, most people start to lose more bones than what their body can make. This bone loss increases with age with women over 50 and men over 70 being more vulnerable. The greatest bone loss is experienced by women after menopause – osteoporosis. Osteoporosis or ‘porous bones’ results in weakening of bones and there is an imbalance between bone building and destruction.
The major health benefits of calcium enjoyed by humans is in maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis especially in postmenopausal women. At the time of menopause, estrogen production reduces and this causes osteoporosis. In men, testosterone levels fall 5-10 years after women. Hence, osteoporosis occurs in men much later. A combination of vitamin D and calcium will prevent this bone loss and maintain healthy bones throughout the body.
Hypoparathyroidism : Those with under active thyroid glands suffer from hypoparathyroidism. These people must take a physician prescribed low-phosphorous, high-calcium diet along with a calcium supplement if needed.
Calcium benefits in PMS : A large study has show the health benefits of calcium [1,200mg / day] for women suffering from PMS. Headaches, bloating, moodiness and food cravings – all common PMS symptoms were reduced by 50% with the help of calcium. These women also suffered from less menstrual pain.
High Blood Pressure : Those with calcium deficiency can get high blood pressure. While some studies prove that high blood pressure can be controlled with calcium intake, others are not so positive. Those who suffer from hypertension must not stop their blood pressure medication. Pregnant women who suffer from preeclampsia that result in a combination of high protein levels in the urine, fluid retention and high blood pressure can benefit from calcium supplements. These women can gain better benefits from foods rich in calcium and a prenatal vitamin combination that contains folic acid, magnesium and other essential nutrients.
Obesity : A study of people that were on a diet that combined low-fat dairy products found that they lost weight and maintained a healthy weight. However, this study has not been able to identify if the weight loss is due to the presence of calcium in the diet, other nutrients or a combination of both.
High Cholesterol : Initial studies have shown that cholesterol levels can be lowered to a certain extent by intake of calcium supplements of 1500-2000mg / day. In order to maintain normal cholesterol levels, such people have to combine a healthy diet along with regular exercise.
Rickets : Rickets results in weakening and softening of bones in children. This can be treated with calcium supplements according to some studies.
Prevention of Colon Cancer : The overall risk of contracting colon cancer can be alleviated with enough calcium supplements. This mineral also helps to prevent the growth of polyps that result in colon cancer and occurrence of adenomas – non-malignant colon tumors – that are precursors to colon cancer. The study does not prove if calcium can completely minimize colon cancer risk. Excess calcium in the body that is unabsorbed gets flushed out by the intestines. On the way out, this calcium passes through the colon and binds with cancer promoters and both are excreted from the body. Calcium rich food and liquid calcium supplements provide the best protection.
Protection of Cardiac Muscles : Sufficient intake of calcium helps the cardiac muscles contract and relaxes properly. The nervous system also works properly to maintain the right pressure on arteries. In case of a drop in calcium levels, the hormone calcitrol gets released and this improves blood pressure by aiding with the contraction of the artery muscles. Extracellular calcium ions are what the cardiac muscles require for contraction. Calcium also prevents instances of strokes in women.
Calcium for Kidney Stones : Kidney stones are formed by crystallized mineral and calcium deposits in the urinary tract. Previous studies stated that these kidney stones were formed due to high calcium absorption. More recent studies show that in fact high intake of calcium actually reduces the problem of kidney stones. It is the excessive calcium found in water that can cause kidney stones to be formed. Kidney stones like oxalate stones are formed due to excessive consumption of leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and reduced intake of liquids.
Other health benefits of calcium:
- Calcium helps to maintain healthy pH levels and overall good health.
- Teeth and gums remain healthy with a good diet of calcium.
- Easy transportation of nutrients across various cell membranes is maintained by calcium.
Foods rich in Calcium
Parmesan, American, mozzarella, cheddar, gruyere, feta and Romano cheeses provide the maximum health benefits of calcium. Low fat dairy products like yoghurt and milk, tofu, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, almonds, nuts, cabbage, dark leafy greens, canned salmon, oysters, sardines and dried figs are some of the other foods rich in calcium . Green peas, ricotta, rice beverages and orange juice are also good calcium sources.
Precautions when taking Calcium
Total daily calcium intake should not exceed 2,500mg for otherwise side effects like loss of appetite, frequent urination, vomiting, kidney damage and nausea can occur. Those suffering from cancer, hyperparathyroidism and kidney failure must be careful when taking calcium. Make sure that calcium supplements are taken under medical supervision only. Some studies have shown that excessive calcium intake can lead to heart attacks and higher risk of contracting prostrate cancer.
Since this is the most extensively found mineral in the human body, the health benefits of calcium for various medical conditions like osteoporosis, strong teeth, healthy heart, colon cancer, PMS and hypertension is very important. Hence, everyone must ensure they get enough calcium to prevent or treat these and other conditions.