Calcium (Ca) is the must abundant mineral in the human body, making up our bones and teeth. A small additional amount is found in our blood and fluid between cells.
Potential for deficiency
A deficiency of Calcium is called 'hypocalcemia'. The recommended intake for Calcium is somewhat varied. In Europe is is significantly less (700mg - 2016) than the USA (1200mg - 2016). In surveys conducted throughout European countries and the USA, it was found that many people have an intake of less than half the recommended amount.
As we get older it becomes more important to get enough Calcium through our diet to ensure our bones remain strong and healthy. This is because as we age, our bones begin to thin or become less dense, increasing our daily calcium requirement. Menopausal women require a greater intake of calcium to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
People who consume large quantities of alcohol, caffeine or fizzy drinks, and those who eat very little dairy are at a higher risk of a deficiency. Calcium deficiencies are also common in people with malabsorbtion problems such as Crohn's disease.
What does Calcium do?
Calcium is a crucial mineral for helping to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. It also plays a role in the functioning of our blood vessels and nerves.
An adequate intake of Calcium is also necessary for our bodies to be able to absorb other nutrients such as Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Magnesium.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirms that clear health benefits have been established for the dietary intake of Calcium in contributing to:
the maintenance of normal bones and teeth
- normal muscle function and neurotransmission
- normal blood clotting
- normal energy metabolism
- the normal function of digestive enzymes
- normal regulation of cell division and differentiation.
The richest dietary sources of calcium include cheese, milk, yoghurt and tofu.
Other good sources of calcium include broccoli, cabbage, kelp and dark leafy greens. The consumption of non dairy milk is now very popular with alternatives such as soya milk, coconut milk, almond milk and rice milk found in most supermarkets. These dairy alternatives are very often fortified with Calcium and other vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin D and B Vitamins.
'Hypercalcemia' (not to be confused with hypocalcemia) is when abnormally excessive blood calcium levels are detected. It is important to not consume excessive amounts because too much calcium in your blood can weaken your bones, create kidney stones, and interfere with the way your heart and brain works.
Symptoms of deficiency
- numbness of the fingers
- muscle cramps
- poor appetite
- delayed bone development in infants
- skeletal malformation
- mental confusion.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.