What's Calcium For?
Yes, calcium is key for the health of your
bones and teeth, but it also affects your muscles, hormones,
nerve function, and ability to form blood clots. Research
has confirmed that calcium helps other problems like PMS,
high blood pressure, and possibly weight gain.
Calcium is the most common mineral found in
the body and is required for the formation of bones and
for bodily functions like muscle contractions and blood
Almost all the calcium in our bodies is stored
in the bones and teeth. While bones feel rock hard, they're
actually living tissue that is constantly in flux; new bone
is being created while old bone is destroyed.
When youre young, the process is skewed toward
bone creation, and you have increasing bone density as you
age, peaking at about age 30. After that, the process reaches
equilibrium in adulthood. Then, as we age, the process can
tip toward destruction, which can result in less dense,
By having an adequate intake of calcium,
youre giving your body the building blocks to fuel all its
important functions, as well as to knit new bone tissue.
If you dont get enough calcium, the body will steal
calcium thats stored in bones to make sure it has enough
to meet the bodys needs.
The recommended daily intake of calcium is
1,000 to 1,300 milligrams per day for people ages 9 and
But guess what? Some people fall short. A
recent Institute of Medicine report found that, while the
majority of people do get enough calcium, girls ages 918
are the exception.
In addition, a University of Maryland study
found calcium intake to be too low for most people, particularly
The study found the average consumption in
girls ages 9 to 18 to be about 814 milligrams daily. While
women between 40 and 59 years of age increased their consumption
over time, intake in children 6 to 11 years old dropped.About
99% of the calcium in your body is found in your bones and
teeth, but the remaining 1% is pretty important. Researchers
think calcium may be important for the following, although
more study is needed to confirm the links:
Regulating blood pressure: A review
of clinical trials in the Annals of Internal Medicine found
that calcium supplementation helped lower systolic blood
pressure (the first number in a blood-pressure reading)
in people with and without hypertension.
Another study in the American Journal of Critical
Nutrition found that men in California who had high blood
pressure consumed less calcium than men without hypertension.
Curbing PMS: Getting enough calcium
could even reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Calcium
levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycleas estrogen
levels increase, calcium concentrations drop, according
to Susan Thys-Jacobs, MD, the clinical director of the Metabolic
Bone Center at St. LukesRoosevelt Hospital Center
in New York.
Dr. Thys-Jacobs conducted a review of studies
looking at calcium supplementation and PMS in women. She
found that an adequate intake of calcium over time seemed
to reduce PMS symptoms, including anxiety, irritability,
depression, headaches, and cramps.
Maintaining a healthy weight: Calcium
may also play a role in weight loss. In a British Journal
of Nutrition study, obese women who consumed less than 600
milligrams of calcium daily went on a diet and took either
a placebo or a 1,200-milligram calcium supplement daily.
The women taking calcium lost 13 pounds during the program,
while those taking the placebo lost about 2 pounds.
As for cancer prevention, you may have
heard of studies linking calcium intake with a reduction
in colorectal cancer, breast cancer in premenopausal women,
and a slight reduction in overall cancer risk.
Should you get calcium from food or supplements?
Calcium is found in relatively high concentrations in dairy
products: One cup of skim milk has about 302 milligrams
of calcium, 8 ounces of yogurt has between 250 and 400 milligrams,
and 1.5 ounces of cheddar cheese has 306 milligrams.
But for those who can't, or choose not to,
eat dairy, there are other foods that are high in calcium,
including green, leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, and
So no matter how you get it, taking in enough
calcium is vital for a strong, healthy body. Calcium
is critical for heart and muscle function, Dr. Deal
says. In fact, its pretty clear that calcium has an
effect on a number of functions, as well as preservation
of bone mass and helping to reduce fracture risk.
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