April 29, 2015
Calcium is a mineral that is essential to your health. Everyone probably knows that calcium is needed for strong bones, what you may be unaware of is that calcium is needed for many other processes in your body. It is needed for the regulation of your muscles, for nerves to conduct their electrical impulses, for ion transport within the body, for enzyme activation, for blood clotting and for the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters (to send nerve messages).
The skeleton contains 99% of the body’s calcium. You need dietary calcium and vitamin D in order to maintain healthy bones and teeth. It is a mineral and is the 5th most abundant mineral in your body. The skeleton is there to provide the body with its calcium and phosphorus needs, it can be withdrawn and deposited as needed. Some people grow better skeletons than others because of genetic, environmental and nutritional factors.
Hypocalcaemia and hypercalcaemia are conditions when there is either not enough calcium in the blood or where there is too much calcium in the blood. Low blood calcium (hypocalcaemia) can cause seizures, muscle spasms, and twitching in the face and fingers. High blood calcium (hypercalcaemia) can cause thirst, mental confusion, irritability, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness; frequent urination and constipation are also common. When calcium is high this can end up in the soft tissue and kidney stones can form.
When there is a vitamin D deficiency children develop rickets and adults develop osteomalacia. Their bones don’t calcify normally and contain unmineralized bone. Osteoporosis occurs when there is a loss of bone however what remains is calcified, these bones are thin, weak and break easily.
You need a daily intake of calcium, as there is a loss of calcium in urine and stool. When you don’t have enough calcium in your diet the parathyroid reabsorbs it from the bone.
The best source of dietary calcium is from dairy products, this needs to be raw as the pasteurisation process boils and kills the vitamins. Soy products, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and small fish with bones such as sardines and whitebait are also great sources. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and the best source of vitamin D is from the sun.
Essentials of human nutrition, Mann and Truswell, 3rd edition, oxford 2007, p112-113
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