Calcium is an important and major mineral in the body that supports the structure and hardness of body parts. Hence, approximately all the Calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. Calcium, a mineral found in many foods, maintains strong bones and enables the muscles to move. Also it helps the nerves in the body to carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body. The blood vessels that move throughout in the body, release the hormones and enzymes with the help of Calcium. The body needs Calcium as it is important for two significant roles, namely, building the bones and teeth and regulating certain processes of the body. The heart muscles, nerves and blood clotting depend on the presence of Calcium in the body.
Calcium needed for a normal human body depends on the body and the intake of food. However, the recommended Calcium from birth to six months is about 200 mg, for children it is 700- 1000 mg and for adults it is about 1000 mg. Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women, both teens and adults should have about 1200-1300 mg proportion of Calcium in the body.
Consuming alcohol, coffee, and intake of nutrients like protein, sodium, potassium and phosphorous release the Calcium from the body in the form of urine, faeces and sweat. The body maintains the Calcium levels from the bone. Hence there are no obvious symptoms produced due to insufficient intake of Calcium in the short term. In the long term, however, it causes certain health consequences such as low bone mass, brittle teeth, bone fractures, numb and tingled fingers, abnormal heart rhythms, etc.
Insufficient Calcium can give rise to several illnesses which include:
Bone health and Osteoporosis: Bones reach their peak to the need of plenty of Calcium content throughout childhood and adolescence until the age of 30. The bones usually lose Calcium after that and cause Osteoporosis. This disease, especially found in women, make the bones porous, fragile and prone to fracture.
Cardiovascular disease: Deficiency of Calcium may lead to heart stroke or heart disease.
High blood pressure: High blood pressure that leads to hypertension can be reduced by the intake of Calcium in a recommended fat-free and low-fat dairy products, vegetables and fruits.
Cancer: Studies reveal that that proper diet of Calcium lowers the risk of developing cancer of the colon, rectum and the prostate.
Kidney Stones: Kidney stones are caused due to higher intake of Calcium and hence are rich in Calcium oxalate. However, Calcium from foods is not responsible for this. It is caused due to excessive intake of dietary supplements other than food.
Weight loss: Calcium has a little effect on the on the body weight and the amount of fat present in it.
Specific diet under supervision of a dietician should be practised in order to increase the level of Calcium in your body:
- The main food sources of Calcium are milk, yogurt and cheese.
- Vegetables like kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage are the fine sources of Calcium.
- Animal sources of Calcium in diet include fish with soft bones, canned sardines and salmon, etc.
- The grains like bread, pastas, and other unfortified cereals add significant amounts of Calcium to the food and the diet and are consumed by most of the people in the urban areas.
- Breakfast rich in Calcium may include cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice beverages and tofu.
Occasionally, we take in too much Calcium than required by the body. This causes higher levels of Calcium in the blood. Too much Calcium leads to severe fatigue, depression, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Also it may lead to irregular heartbeat and low blood pressure. Sometimes there is a pain in the kidneys, which is an indication of Kidney stones.