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Home > Supplement Categories > Minerals > Calcium

Calcium: Uses, Benefits, Food Sources, Side Effects, Dosage

What is Calcium?

Calcium (Ca) is the most abundant mineral found in the human body, making up more or less 750 to 1,300 grams or 1.5% of total body weight. Alongside phosphorus, nearly all the calcium in the body becomes a component of the calcium phosphate found in the bones and teeth, making the maintenance of bone strength and density its main role.

Aside from its integral role in bone growth and development, calcium is also necessary in the processes of blood clotting, muscle contraction, and signal transmissions in nerve cells. Only roughly 1% of the total calcium in the body is utilized in vital processes or distributed among tissues, muscles, extracellular fluid, and cells.

In order for it to function correctly, calcium works with several other nutrients, some of which are phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Vitamin D is also essential in the absorption of calcium.

Calcium Food Sources

Dairy products, such as buttermilk, non-pasteurized milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, and whey, are notable calcium rich foods. Also included in the list are tea, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and fresh dark green vegetables such as spinach, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and green beans.

Seafood and sea vegetables, such as kelp and red seaweed, are also calcium foods. The soft bones of fish like wild salmon, sardines, tuna, and anchovies, are good sources of calcium easily absorbed by the body.

Other foods containing this mineral include molasses, dried beans, almonds, dried apricots, figs, prunes, oranges, papayas, oats, sesame seeds, carrots, and various herbs such as basil, cinnamon, garlic, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Cooking or storage does not greatly deplete the amount of calcium found in food items.

What is Calcium Used For?

Because calcium plays such an integral role in bone growth and development, the body will actually demineralize bone fragments in the event that intake of this mineral becomes insufficient. This is in order to maintain the proper blood calcium levels that the body needs in order for it to function properly. As such, calcium supplements have become an important part of most diets.

There are various forms of calcium supplements available in the market. Some of these are calcium citrate, calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and calcium carbonate. Of all these forms, calcium citrate is said to be the one that is most easily absorbed and digested by the body, hence making it the best calcium supplement and the most effective preventer of osteoporosis in the elderly and in postmenopausal women. Calcium lactate, meanwhile, has the potential to be utilized as a strong acidifying calcium. Calcium carbonate is known to be the least costly and most common type of supplement. In particular, coral calcium, which is derived from the calcium carbonate skeletons of corals, is heavily promoted by suppliers.

These supplements, along with natural sources of calcium, are used to ensure the development of strong bones and teeth, as well as healthy gums. Calcium is also necessary in the execution of bodily processes and plays a role in the regulation of the heartbeat and blood pressure, transmission of nerve impulses, contraction of muscles, activation of enzymes, and filtering of nutrients through cell membranes.

Other functions of calcium in the body include: 

  • regulating body fat
  • preventing muscle cramps
  • clotting the blood in wounds
  • reducing blood cholesterol levels
  • expanding and contracting blood vessels
  • slowing down the loss of teeth due to weak jaw bones
  • inhibiting absorption of harmful lead in bones and teeth
  • ensuring the development of strong cartilages and muscles
  • slowing the rate of excessive leaching and bone loss, which leads to osteoporosis 

Calcium supplementation is also used to treat and prevent low levels of the mineral and the consequential bone conditions that may arise from them. These include osteoporosis, the weakening of bones brought about by low density from excessive demineralization, and osteomalacia, the painful softening of bones. Premenstrual syndrome, high blood pressure, colon and rectal cancer, Lyme disease, heart burn, and kidney disease may also be prevented by taking enough calcium supplements. In addition, calcium for kids helps prevent rickets, gingivitis, and high levels of fluoride.

As calcium is released through sweat, dead skin cells, and other bodily waste, the amount found in the body has a tendency to decrease slowly with age. In addition, many people are unable to achieve the proper calcium intake of 1,200 milligrams daily. These factors are the leading causes of the development of calcium deficiency, along with several other causes: 

  • reduced estrogen levels in women
  • excessive fat, protein, or sugar intake
  • insufficient secretion of stomach acid
  • physical inactivity or excessive exercise
  • poor absorption or utilization of calcium by the body
  • excessive intake of dietary phosphorus or magnesium
  • insufficient levels of vitamin D brought about by liver or kidney problems

There are little or no noticeable short-term symptoms of calcium deficiency because of the body’s ability to draw the mineral from bones in order to compensate for immediate calcium depletion. However, constantly low levels of calcium may begin to take a toll on the body, causing several complications, which are indicators of when to take calcium:

  • insomnia
  • tooth decay
  • poor appetite
  • chronic fatigue
  • heart palpitations
  • brittle or deformed nails
  • high risk of hypertension
  • high levels of cholesterol
  • high levels of lead absorption
  • osteoporosis, characterized by frequent bone fractures
  • osteonecrosis, or the loss of bone mineralization in the jaw
  • rheumatoid arthritis, which causes a chronic inflammation of joints
  • hypocalcaemia, a condition in which skeletal muscles experience contractions, leading to numbness, severe spasms, and even death
  • rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, which cause bones to become pliable, resulting in spinal curvature, knock-knees, soft skull bones, and other such skeletal problems

What are Calcium Side Effects?

Although there are generally little or even no harmful effects brought about by calcium, excessive intake may cause constipation, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, and increased urination. Severe calcium side effects brought about by overdose include impaired kidney function, decreased absorption of other minerals, and hypercalcaemia. Hypercalcaemia results from an extremely high ratio of 10.5 milligrams (mg) of calcium per deciliter of blood, and if chronic, can result in formation of urinary stones.

Calcium taken from unrefined oyster shells, bone meal, or dolomite must be ingested with caution, as they may contain fatal dosages of toxic metals such as lead.

As a warning against overdose, which may cause calcium supplements side effects, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine allocated a Tolerable Upper Intake level (UI) for calcium:

Age

Male (mg)

Female (mg)

Pregnancy (mg)

Lactation (mg)

1 to 13 years

2,500

2,500

-

-

> 13 years

2,500

2,500

2,500

2,500

These values are not applicable to those who use calcium supplements for therapeutic purposes. Individuals with symptoms of kidney failure are also at greater risk of contracting calcium side effects.

Calcium Dosages

The ideal level of ingestion for calcium supplements is highly dependent on age, sex, and ethnicity, and is also affected by the amount of calcium consumed at one time. Most supplements contain no more than 500 mg per serving. The regular daily recommended intake for calcium is as follows:

Age

Dosage (mg/day)

0 to 6 months

210

7 to 12 months

270

1 to 3 years

500

4 to 10 years

800

Above 10 years

1,200

Pregnant females < 19 years

1,300

Pregnant females above 19 years

1,000

These dosages indicate the minimum amount necessary to prevent deficiencies. These amounts may increase in cases of therapeutic use, although they must always be modified in accordance with the calcium toxicity levels.

References:

Health Supplements Nutritional Guide. Calcium.

http://www.healthsupplementsnutritionalguide.com/Calcium.html

Vitamins & Health Supplements Guide. Calcium Supplements.

http://www.vitamins-supplements.org/dietary-minerals/calcium.php

WebMD. Calcium.

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-781-CALCIUM.aspx?activeIngredientId=781&activeIngredientName=CALCIUM&source=2

Disclaimer:

This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.

Calcium Supplements

Products (Total Items: 24)

Calcium Malate caps by Designs for Health
Calcium Malate caps by Designs for Health
250mg 120 capsules
USD $26.40
Buy
Calcium (MCHA) with Magnesium by Pure Encapsulations
Calcium (MCHA) with Magnesium by Pure Encapsulations
180 vcapsules
USD $38.10
Buy
Calcium by Genestra
Calcium by Genestra
90 caps
USD $14.80
Buy
Calcium Magnesium (citrate/malate) by Pure Encapsulations
Calcium Magnesium (citrate/malate) by Pure Encapsulations
180 vcaps
USD $25.20
Buy
Calcium (citrate) by Pure Encapsulations
Calcium (citrate) by Pure Encapsulations
180 vcaps
USD $21.60
Buy
Microcrystalline Calcium 100 caps by Douglas Labs
Microcrystalline Calcium 100 caps by Douglas Labs
100 caps
USD $12.80
Buy
Calcium Citrate 250mg 100 tabs by Douglas Labs
Calcium Citrate 250mg 100 tabs by Douglas Labs
250mg, 100 tabs
USD $9.90
Buy
Calcium Citrate 250mg 250 tabs by Douglas Labs
Calcium Citrate 250mg 250 tabs by Douglas Labs
250mg, 250 tabs
USD $19.00
Buy
Calcium Citrate 90 vcaps by Thorne Research
Calcium Citrate 90 vcaps by Thorne Research
Discontinued
Buy
Calcium Microcrys Hydro 2000 mg 250 tabs by Douglas Labs
Calcium Microcrys Hydro 2000 mg 250 tabs by Douglas Labs
2000mg, 250 tabs
USD $41.20
Buy
Calcium Microcrys Hydro 2000 mg 90 tabs by Douglas Labs
Calcium Microcrys Hydro 2000 mg 90 tabs by Douglas Labs
2000mg, 90 tabs
USD $17.40
Buy
Calcium 180 tabs by Integrative Therapeutics
Calcium 180 tabs by Integrative Therapeutics
180 tabs
USD $13.50
Buy
Chewable Calcium 500 mg 60 tabs by DaVinci Labs
Chewable Calcium 500 mg 60 tabs by DaVinci Labs
Discontinued
USD Click to view alternate product recommendation
Buy
Calcium Citrate 150 mg 180 caps by Allergy Research Group
Calcium Citrate 150 mg 180 caps by Allergy Research Group
150 mg 180 caps
USD $21.94
Buy
Chewable Calcium 250 mg 60 tabs by Carlson Labs
Chewable Calcium 250 mg 60 tabs by Carlson Labs
250 mg 60 tabs
USD $10.50
Buy
Calcium 180 tabs by Enzymatic Therapy
Calcium 180 tabs by Enzymatic Therapy
180 tabs
USD $14.49
Buy
Calcium Citrate 250 tabs by Now
Calcium Citrate 250 tabs by Now
250 tabs
USD $25.99
Buy
Calcium (MCHA) 180 caps by Pure Encapsulations
Calcium (MCHA) 180 caps by Pure Encapsulations
180 caps
USD $48.40
Buy
Calcium (MCHA) 90 caps by Pure Encapsulations
Calcium (MCHA) 90 caps by Pure Encapsulations
Discontinue
USD Click for recommended alternate product
Buy
Liqui Calcium 90 gels by  Solanova (SLV)
Liqui Calcium 90 gels by Solanova (SLV)
Discontinued
USD Click to view alternate product recommendation
Buy
Reacted Calcium 180 caps by Ortho Molecular
Reacted Calcium 180 caps by Ortho Molecular
Discontinued
USD Click to view alternate product recommendation
Buy
Plant Calcium (mykind Organics) 90 tabs by Garden of Life
Plant Calcium (mykind Organics) 90 tabs by Garden of Life
90 tabs
USD $36.95
Buy
Calcium Citrate/Malate 120 Caps by Complementary Prescriptions
Calcium Citrate/Malate 120 Caps by Complementary Prescriptions
Discontinued
USD Click to view alternate product recommendation
Buy
Calcium Hydroxyapatite 90 Caps by Complementary Prescriptions
Calcium Hydroxyapatite 90 Caps by Complementary Prescriptions
90 caps
USD $19.95
Buy

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