What is calcium?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. 99% of its total quantity is concentrated in the bones (where it accumulates in the form of carbonate) and teeth. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium also helps prevent blood clotting. It helps the heart, nerves, muscles and other body systems work properly. Since the body cannot produce new calcium, it is important to get calcium from foods. Failure to do so can result weakness and frailness of the bones, since the body will take calcium from the bones.


What is the function of calcium?

Calcium is essential in the development and health of bones and teeth . In fact, the bones are subjected to a continuous process of remodeling that involves resorption and deposition of calcium in the new bone tissue . Only 1% of the total stocks of this mineral participates in other functions such as: muscle contraction, nerve transmission, secretion of hormones, vasodilation and contraction of the blood vessels.


Which foods are rich in calcium?

Food is the best source of calcium. The main dietary sources of calcium include milk and its derivatives , in particular cheese, yogurt and other fermented milks. This mineral is also found in certain green leafy vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, kale and broccoli, bread, tofu, nuts as well as  in many fish and shellfish(such as sardines, clams and mussels).


What is the recommended daily requirement of calcium?

The recommended daily intake of calcium is equal to 800 mg . It varies, however, depending on the individual’s age. Also, the daily requirement of calcium increases during pregnancy and 'breastfeeding. Some individuals may require calcium supplements in order to receive the recommended amount. This is especially important in children who do not receive enough calcium in their diets as they are growing and developing bone structure.


What are the consequences of calcium deficiency?

Calcium deficiency may remain asymptomatic throughout a short term period, however if not treated properly, it can have very serious consequences.Early symptoms include tingling and numbness of the fingers, muscle cramps, convulsions, drowsiness, poor appetite and abnormal heart beat.In the long run, osteopenia may occur (reduced bone mass), leading to a more severe case of osteoporosis, with a consequent increased risk of obtaining fractures. Also, rickets may be a consequence due to lack of calcium, although it is more frequent when lack of Vitamin D is in question. Calcium deficiency can also be found in individuals who don’t absorb enough calcium due to having certain conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and some intestinal surgeries.  


What are the consequences of excessive calcium intake?

Excess of calcium in the blood can lead to kidney failure , calcification of blood vessels and soft tissues, increased calcium in the urine and kidney stones . Also excessive intake of calcium can cause constipation and interfere with the absorption of iron and zinc. Although less frequent, there is an association between calcium and increased risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. 


It is true that calcium can help prevent osteoporosis?

Calcium deficiency can exacerbate osteoporosis; however the problem needs to be addressed as early as possible. In fact, it is necessary to ensure proper ossification at an early age.