23/11/2020
pink smoothie next to a bowl of fruit

Calcium: the vital mineral

Calcium is one of the best known and most important minerals in our body. The human skeleton weighs on average between 7 and 9 kg, always depending on body weight. Approximately one kilogram of that weight is calcium.

Among other things, calcium is important for bone reconstruction or conical remodeling. It is stored in human bones along with phosphate, from there it gets into the bloodstream. In addition to maintaining bone health, calcium is also essential for the dental structure, nerve, and muscle activity, but also for blood clotting. It also has an anti-inflammatory or antiallergic effect.

This only shows how important this mineral is for health.

What is calcium?

Calcium is a chemical element that is identified in the periodic table with the symbol ‘Ca’. It is the fifth most common element on the surface of the earth and is found in soil, rocks, water, and living things. In the human body, the mineral only appears in bound form as calcium phosphate.

Calcium is a mineral that is predominantly stored (up to 90%) in the bones. However, smaller amounts also accumulate in the blood or cells.

In addition to maintaining the health of bones and teeth, the mineral has other important functions. It plays an important role in blood clotting but also plays an important role in the functioning of the brain and central nervous system.

After magnesium, calcium is one of the most important minerals for muscles and helps maintain muscle tension. It is important to keep the level of calcium in the blood constant since the human body needs it every day to keep important functions going.

Without a sufficient amount of the mineral, neither the muscles nor the nerves work. In addition, the heart could not beat regularly and the blood would not clot.

Therefore, calcium should be taken daily from food so that the body does not have to use the skeletal reserves.

Tasks of calcium in the body

The main task of calcium is to produce hard tissue in the body. Therefore, it is also indispensable for the growth and formation of teeth or bones. Newborns, children, and the elderly have a particularly high need for this mineral.

Calcium is also needed in blood plasma. This is released from bone deposits as necessary. An excess is simply excreted by the body through feces.

An overview of all essential tasks:

Formation of teeth and bones: About 99% of the calcium in the body is found in teeth and bones. This mineral gives them strength and stability. At the same time, the human body serves as a reservoir. If there is a deficiency, parts of the minerals are released from the bones and are available for other bodily functions.

Activation of hormones and enzymes: If there is an excess of carbohydrates, glycogen accumulates in the muscle and liver cells. Glycogen is a form of glucose storage in the human body. If more energy is required, muscle cells access stored glycogen to use their energy. Calcium supports this process, the so-called glycogen synthesis, in which glucose is collected in glycogen stores.

Blood coagulation function: Calcium also participates in blood coagulation. A certain blood clotting factor can only become its active form with the help of the mineral and, therefore, cause clotting.

Maintain the function of muscle and nerve tissue: For nerve signals to be transmitted, the body needs calcium. Muscle contractions, also depend on this mineral. In this context, calcium is the antagonist of the mineral magnesium that acts as a muscle relaxant. To avoid muscle cramps and muscle weakness, it is important to achieve a balance between the two minerals.

The mineral also contributes to the stable functioning of digestive enzymes and a healthy energy metabolism.

What is calcium for?

About 99% of the calcium in the human body is attached to the bones and teeth, 1 percent to the blood. Since metabolism cannot produce the mineral, people must obtain it from their daily diet.

Calcium is essential because it forms hard tissue (bone tissue, dental structure) and promotes bone growth. If there is not enough, the body uses the mineral stored in the bones and teeth.

The mineral activates the release of hormones such as insulin and stimulates enzymatic activity. It is also responsible for converting nerve impulses into muscle activity: this is the only way humans can perform movements.

The important vital substance seals the blood vessels, regulates blood pressure, and participates in blood clotting. As a powerful antioxidant, it prevents inflammation and allergies. Those who ingest enough calcium with their food every day can counteract the negative effects of over-acidification (acidosis) beforehand.

three glasses of pink yogurt on a mat

Why do we need calcium and what does the mineral regulate?

Calcium salts are responsible for bone stability, among other things. For the stability of the human skeletal system, it is extremely important to consume enough of the mineral. In addition, the skeleton also acts as a storage tank for the ore. This is also attacked if calcium intake is insufficient.

Calcium is instrumental in the control of numerous processes both outside and inside human cells. If very little it is consumed in the long term, there is a threat of bone demineralization, which in the worst case can cause osteoporosis or similar diseases.

In addition to its function as a building block for bones, calcium also plays an essential role in blood clotting, in the transmission of signals from hormones, and in the processes of nerve transmission and muscle contraction.

Calcium levels are usually regulated by food, hormones, phosphate metabolism and vitamin D:

Parathormone: This hormone is formed in the parathyroid gland and ensures an increase in the level of calcium through the mobilization of bone mineral.

Vitamin D3: A precursor of vitamin D is formed in the skin under the action of UVA rays or absorbed through the intestine. Increases the level of calcium, as it promotes the absorption of the intestine.

Calcitonin: This protein is also produced in the thyroid. However, unlike the previous ones, the level of calcium decreases by promoting the storage of calcium in the bone.

What benefits does the mineral offer for health?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has made some health claims about calcium that have been confirmed by scientific advice.

Calcium

  • It has an essential function in cell division,
  • It is important for normal muscle function,
  • contributes to normal energy metabolism,
  • It is essential for normal digestive enzyme function,
  • contributes to normal blood clotting,
  • it is important for signal transmission between nerve cells,
  • It is required for the maintenance of bone structure and teeth.

As a result, adequate calcium intake can prevent heart attacks. However, an adequate intake of vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium should also be guaranteed.

A balanced calcium intake can also reduce arterial calcification. Calcification is usually the main cause of heart problems. A study has shown that people who took the mineral as a dietary supplement could reduce the degree of calcification by up to 62%.

What is the recommended daily dose?

The amount in mg of calcium that is recommended daily depends on age. In addition, there are also differences between different countries. For example, a higher dose is recommended in Germany, Austria, and the United States.

The reason for this is that the World Health Organization takes into account typical western eating habits, that is, a high intake of table salt and protein.

Below is an overview of your daily calcium needs:

  • babies

0 to 3 months: 220 mg

4 to 12 months: 330 mg

  • children

1 to 3 years: 600 mg

4 to 6 years: 750 mg

7 to 9 years: 900 mg

10 to 12 years: 1100 mg

13 to 14 years: 1200 mg

  • Teenagers and adults

15 to 18 years: 1200 mg

19 to 24 years: 1000 mg

25 to 50 years: 1000 mg

51 to 64 years: 1000 mg

65 years and older: 1000 mg

  • Pregnant and lactating women.

1000 mg daily

In this context, it is also important to pay attention to the so-called “calcium thieves”. These bind to the mineral or promote excretion. Examples would be foods with oxalic acid, found in tomatoes, chocolate, spinach, or rhubarb, among others.

But also phytic acid, corn, cereals, or legumes make calcium intake worse. Phosphate-rich foods such as prepared foods, sausages, and meat products or soft drinks should rarely be consumed, as these prevent intestinal absorption.

The same applies to the consumption of tea and coffee. In addition, high consumption of protein and table salt in food increases calcium excretion.

three different cheeses on a tray

Is there any side effect of an overdose?

The calcium requirement can not only be met by eating and drinking but also with special medications or nutritional supplements. However, caution is required in this context.

An overdose can cause undesirable side effects, which in the worst case can also have a lasting effect on health. In addition, an overdose also prevents the absorption of magnesium, zinc, and iron, which can lead to an insufficient supply of the listed nutrients.

There is talk of an excess supply of calcium in the body when the person in question has consumed more than 4,000 mg (adults). Overdosing in children being 2,500 mg. In healthy people, an excess of the mineral is simply excreted through bowel movements and urine.

In some cases, however, there may be a loss of fluid to the point that the affected person has renal calcification, kidneys and gallstones, and stomach ulcers.

People with diseases such as adrenal insufficiency and malignant tumors generally cannot eliminate it. For them, permanent overdose can cause vomiting, nausea, severe fatigue, constipation, and muscle weakness.

The most common side effects of calcium overdose include:

  • Stomachache,
  • Swelling,
  • Diarrhea,
  • Eruption,
  • Pruritus,
  • Urticaria,
  • Kidney stones,
  • Nausea,
  • Constipation,
  • Swelling.

It is important to mention in this context that these side effects only result from taking supplements or medications in case of overdosing.

Therefore, the dose should be discussed with a doctor before taking it and, in any case, the recommended daily amount should be observed. However, if people ingest too much mineral from their food, there are no side effects because excessive amounts of the mineral are simply excreted again.

What are the best sources of calcium?

It is common knowledge that calcium intake is important for bones and teeth. The existing myth that the consumption of dairy products is sufficient for a sufficient amount of the mineral has also been refuted. The truth is that the mineral assumes essential functions of human organs, such as the lungs, kidneys, or heart.

In order to cover the daily requirement of calcium through food, the following ten foods are recommended:

  • Ground poppy seeds (contains approx. 1460 mg per 100 g),
  • Emmental cheese (contains approximately 1029 mg per 100 g),
  • Sesame (contains approximately 780 mg per 100 g),
  • Almonds (contains approx. 250 mg per 100 g),
  • Kale (contains approx. 210 mg per 100 g),
  • Nettle (contains approximately 190 mg per 100 g),
  • Parsley (contains approximately 180 mg per 100 g),
  • Cow’s milk (contains approximately 120 mg per 100 g),
  • Spinach (contains approximately 115 mg per 100 g).

Of course, drinking mineral water also helps meet calcium needs. It is also important to take enough vitamin D so that the mineral is absorbed better.

In general, it is advisable to eat dairy products, eggs, nuts, green vegetables but also whole grains to provide the body with enough calcium. However, for absorption to function optimally, sufficient vitamin K, phosphorus, and magnesium must also be available.

What are the causes and consequences of the lack of calcium?

Calcium is essential for numerous processes in the human body. Certain circumstances can lead to deficiency. There is a deficiency if the blood value is less than 2.2 mmol / l.

Possible causes of a calcium deficit:

  • Lactose intolerance: Now there are many people who can no longer tolerate products containing lactose. If these foods are omitted, there may be a mineral deficiency. However, there are also tablets for this, so that lactose products can be consumed without any problem.
  • Impaired mineral absorption from the intestine: Even people with chronic diseases such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease can suffer from calcium deficiency because absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is impaired.
  • Eating disorders: Eating disorders such as anorexia or voluntary vomiting addiction (bulimia) can also cause a calcium deficit. But even with bodybuilders who consume a large amount of protein, the daily requirement of the mineral increases, and if this is not taken into account, there may also be a calcium deficiency.
  • Vitamin D deficiency: ‘ Vitamin of the sun’ promotes the intake of minerals through food. If there is too little vitamin D, absorption is avoided, which leads to a huge loss of calcium through the kidneys.
  • Acute inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Disorders of the thyroid gland or parathyroid gland: Above all, an existing parathyroid hypofunction can lead to a deficit, since this disease is also associated with a deficiency in the parathyroid hormone.
  • Calcium deficiency through other medications: Especially diuretics but also laxatives can cause a calcium deficiency. Antiepileptics and cortisone also reduce calcium levels.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding: Here the daily requirement is higher than usual and, therefore, there may be a calcium deficiency during this time.
broccoli, calcium

Symptoms of a calcium deficit

  • Anxiety and panic attacks,
  • Languor,
  • Formation of a cataract (lens cloudiness),
  • Depression,
  • Increased excitability of nerves and muscles (muscle spasms, muscle spasms, muscle weakness or spasms),
  • Exhaustion,
  • Poor tooth development or short stature in children,
  • Skin changes (eczema and dry skin),
  • Cardiovascular problems such as cardiac arrhythmia or low blood pressure,
  • Lime deposits in tissue, kidney stones,
  • Broken bones (reduced bone density or progression of osteoporosis),
  • Tingling sensation in the skin,
  • Gastrointestinal complaints (vomiting, constipation, pain or nausea),
  • Mental disorders,
  • Humor changes,
  • Loss of hair and brittle nails.

Extreme deficiency

An acute deficiency can alter bone metabolism in children (rickets). In adults, a large continuous deficit can lead to osteoporosis. As a result, the bones become weaker and weaker, which makes it easier for them to break or tear.

This in turn means that a longer healing time is required. To keep bones healthy and strong in old age, adults should drink enough calcium after the age of 25.

If you want to do something about an alleged calcium deficiency, you should first ask a doctor to examine it. Then a deficiency can be diagnosed or confirmed based on blood values.

It is only recommendable to take supplements that contain calcium if there is a deficit because an excess of calcium, which is triggered by the intake of dietary supplements, can have numerous health-related side effects.

What natural sources of calcium are there?

Excellent suppliers of calcium are milk, eggs, and dairy products. Sesame, amaranth, hazelnuts, almonds, coconut flakes, and dark green herbs (nettles), and vegetables also have a high calcium content. These include chervil, broccoli, kale, leek, and pak choi.

Green leafy vegetables also have the correct ratio between calcium and magnesium (2:1) for optimal usability. In order to use the mineral well, the body also needs vitamin D, which can be found in whole grain products, bananas, and legumes.

If you are worried about not getting enough of the mineral, you can also take precautions with certain mineral waters: they must contain at least 150 mg of calcium per liter.

What sources of calcium are suitable for a vegan diet?

Since people who are strictly vegan also lack eggs, milk, and dairy products, they have to meet their daily calcium needs through plant sources.

Calcium-rich plant foods include pak choi (50% bioavailability), kale (49% usable), broccoli (about 60%), and other green leafy vegetables such as watercress, green beans, leeks, kohlrabi, and kale.

White beans, potatoes, and tofu (with calcium sulfate as a coagulant) also optimally meet demand. Other good sources of it for vegans are almonds, sesame, hazelnuts, chia seeds, amaranth, and wheatgrass.

Vegans can add powdered vegetables or herbs to their smoothie. The same applies to vegetables: eat calcium-rich foods three times a day.

What is coral calcium?

People with calcium deficiency often also take supplements. However, it is problematic that commercially available preparations usually contain the mineral in a form (calcium carbonate) that the body cannot optimally use: 95% is generally excreted unused.

Those who value optimal bioavailability should prefer to eat marine coral calcium. It is available in powder form. The corals that contain it come from the Caribbean or the Okinawa Sea, which is considered one of the cleanest seas on earth. Because it is in ionized form, its bioavailability is as high as 95%.

Fossil corals contain 74 additional minerals and trace elements that have been deposited in them for millennia. Coral calcium powder is produced smoothly and contains no impurities or food additives.

Those who consume it regularly regulate its altered acid-base balance and can drastically reduce the risk of developing gout, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, arteriosclerosis, gastrointestinal inflammation, etc.

Since the crystalline form of coral dust resembles the structure of human bones, shellfish are also more suitable for guaranteeing daily calcium intake than other substances.

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