SUPPLEMENT OF THE WEEK
Calcium is a macro mineral and the most abundant mineral of the body. Most of it is contained within the skeleton whilst very little amount is found in the blood. Calcium makes up much of the bone mineral. People with greater requirements for calcium include older people, especially elderly women, people with lactose intolerance and women who do not menstruate.
FUNCTIONS OF CALCIUM
The following are some functions of calcium:
- Building and maintaining strong bones and teeth.
- Essential for blood clotting.
- It is essential for the proper functioning of nerves.
- It helps in the relaxation and contraction of muscles.
- It helps in the regulation of blood pressure.
- Calcium might help reduce risk of cancer.
SOURCES OF CALCIUM
DIET – The main sources of calcium are from dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese, especially parmesan cheese, and from non-dairy products like canned sardines, salmon with bones, cabbage, spinach, soy products, beans and lentils, nuts, seeds and broccoli. Other sources include grains, cereals fortified with calcium and fortified juices. Note that the intake of caffeine and phosphorus and low vitamin D status can reduce the absorption of calcium.
SUPPLEMENTS - A variety of calcium supplements like QC Calcium Supplement are available. Regular intake of calcium and vitamin D supplements combined reduces the risk of hip fracture in older women. Calcium supplementation can help improve bone health in older adults. Talk to a doctor before taking calcium supplements.
DEFICIENCY DISEASES – Low calcium level may be due to one or more of several factors which include low vitamin D and magnesium levels or deficiencies, the use of certain medications, certain illnesses, unhealthy lifestyles like not exercising, smoking and excessive intake of alcohol. Calcium deficiency can cause bone softening in adults and children. Prolonged calcium deficiency can lead to osteopenia (loss of bone density) which can in turn lead to osteoporosis (the thinning or weakening of bones). Dental problems can also arise as the body may pull its source of calcium from the teeth when calcium level is low, thus preventing children’s teeth from growing well. Children may not reach their full adult height with prolonged calcium deficiency. Hypocalcemia can contribute to further loss of bone mass in patients with osteoporosis.
People who avoid eating milk and its products like those with lactose intolerance and vegans, postmenopausal women whose calcium absorptions are reduced due to decreased production of estrogen, people with certain digestive diseases that cause decrease in the absorption of calcium (e.g. people with inflammatory bowel disease) are at risk of calcium deficiency.
SIGNS OF CALCIUM DEFICIENCY (hypocalcemia) include Muscle cramp, tooth decay, insomnia, bone loss, tingling in hands and feet, depression and muscle spasms.
Some ways of Treating Calcium Deficiencies:
- Combining supplementation of calcium and vitamin D especially for people with osteoporosis.
- Increasing dietary intake of calcium.
- Ensuring adequate vitamin D status.
Prevention of Calcium Deficiency: Consuming balanced meals rich in calcium, daily exposure to sunlight, performing exercises that makes one bear his/her own body weight like walking, jogging and weight lifting, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking can help prevent calcium deficiencies.
Excess Intake of Calcium: Excessive intake of calcium may result in hypercalcemia which may cause poor muscle tone, soft tissue calcifications e.g. cataract in the eye, arthritis, constipation, cramps, bone pain, nausea, weight loss, insomnia, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, polyuria (excessive urination), heart arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), the development of renal stone and impairing the absorption of other nutrients such as iron, phosphorus and zinc.
Guidelines for calcium intake: The recommended calcium intake is 1000mg/day. This is also dependent upon age and sex and vary from country to country. Consult a doctor before taking calcium supplements.