Calcium’s Role & Importance
When you think of calcium, what comes to mind? If you are like me, you will remember the countless “Got Milk” campaigns and automatically think of bone strength. But what if I told you calcium serves a much larger purpose? Without calcium, our muscles would not be able to function. Calcium is responsible for our bones, teeth, nerve conduction, vascular reactivity, hormonal secretion, and MUSCLE CONTRACTION.
With 250mg of calcium per cup of spinach, it is no wonder why the famous Popeye cartoon chose to consume cans of Spinach before getting his flex on for his girl Olive Oyl.
When thinking of muscle (and Popeye’s girlfriend), let’s consider one of the most important muscles of the body––the heart–– in regards to the importance of calcium’s role. Blood vessels exhibit some degree of smooth muscle contraction that determines the diameter, and thus tone, of the vessel that assists in the beating of the heart. Calcium plays an important part in regulating vascular smooth muscle contractibility.
Calcium absorption is just as important as calcium intake (if not more important). The amount of calcium absorbed by the body after consumption can vary due to several factors.
One important factor is vitamin D.
It is very important to include this vitamin in your diet and supplementation since 80% of the calcium absorption that occurs in the intestines needs the presence of it to occur.
Another factor of calcium absorption is the presence of magnesium. For example, this mineral is needed for the body to release a hormone that increases blood calcium levels when they are low. Therefore, when magnesium is too low, so are blood calcium levels––a condition known as hypocalcemia. If the body lacks an appropriate amount of calcium to be absorbed and used, the bones will excrete it. This can eventually lead to bone issues and more. With the general population not receiving enough calcium from their diet, supplementation is most likely needed.
Let’s ensure we are getting the proper amount of calcium from food and/or supplementation in order for our bodies to perform at an optimal level.
Below is a list of calcium-rich foods:
• Dairy products
Also, the two main types of calcium supplements are:
• Calcium carbonate – most affordable requiring the least amount of tablets, absorption is not ideal as it may cause bloating or constipation and should be taken with food for sufficient absorption.
• Calcium citrate- is more absorbable and often more expensive than calcium carbonate, and most likely requires more tablets for an adequate dose, it’s less likely to create GI side effects (such as bloating) since it does not need to rely on gastric acid for absorption
• Calcium gluconate- belongs to a class of drugs called antidotes and is more likely used for over the counter and prescription purposes to treat hypocalcemia mentioned above. This can also be administered intravenously either directly, or by infusion.
• Calcium Chloride- mostly used for food processing for added taste in addition to being used in electrolyte-enhanced beverages to prevent muscle cramping. This supplement can also be used on a medical level, administered intravenously to assist a patient with health issues such as hypocalcemic tetany (cramping), hypermagnesemia, cardiac arrhythmia, and more.
These top two calcium supplements––citrate and carbonate––can come in many forms: chewable and oral tablets, gummies, liquid, and capsules, and can range in price from $15-$30 or more. You will receive the most for your dollar shopping online or wholesale.
However, your local retailer can also offer some great promotions. If you’d like to support smaller retailers, simply find out when these sales are and stock up.
The general daily recommended calcium and it’s main absorption assistors are:
• Calcium– 1000 mg a day (this number increases with age with the requirement changing to 1,200 mg for women over 50 and men over 70)
• Vitamin D– 400-800 IU’s is suggested for the daily intake. However, if you are over the age of 50, the intake need will most likely increase to 800-1000 IU
• Magnesium– a good rule of thumb is a 2:1 ratio (for example if you take 1000 mg of Calcium a day, take 500 mg of magnesium)
For the most efficient absorption (and to prevent future issues from excessive consumption) no more than 500mg of calcium should be taken at a time. If more than 500 mg is being consumed daily, the dosage amount should be split into different times of the day. More is not always better after a certain point. This goes for calcium, as well as many other things in life.
In sum, knowing yourself, your diet, and the appropriate amount of calcium supplementation needed (in addition to vitamin D and Magnesium) is key to optimal functioning. Enjoy your one body and know that you are doing it a great service with proper calcium consumption.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.