What is Calcium?
In humans, calcium is the most abundant mineral and forms about 2% of our total body weight.
Almost all of this calcium is found in the skeleton and the rest is found in the teeth, the blood plasma, the body’s soft tissues and the extracellular fluid.
The main role of calcium in the body is to provide structure and strength to the skeleton.
This structure is mainly provided by a form of calcium phosphate called hydroxyapatite crystals, which are found in collagen.
Calcium ions on bone surfaces interact with those present in the bodily fluids, therefore enabling ion exchange.
This is essential in maintaining the balance of calcium in the blood and bone.
When calcium is in the blood it’s an important regulator of key bodily processes such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse signalling, hormone signalling and blood coagulation.
Calcium deficiency leads to poor bone health and may be caused by inadequate calcium intake, poor calcium absorption or excess calcium loss, all of which may reduce bone mineralization.
Bone conditions such as osteoporosis and rickets are caused by a vitamin D deficiency, which impairs the intestinal absorption of calcium and, in turn, leads to a low rate of bone mineralization.
The bones therefore become soft, pliable and prone to deformity.
What is the normal calcium level in the human body?
Normal serum calcium levels for adult are between 8.5 and 10.5 mg/dL.
Since serum levels are tightly regulated in a relatively narrow range, this measurement provides little insight into your calcium nutrition status.
You must seek help from your health provider to accurately evaluate your current calcium status.
How much calcium do I need in my diet?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) and UL (Tolerable Upper Intake Levels) for calcium by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies are dependent on age and gender (Table 1).
For adults between 19-50 years old, the RDA is equivalent to the calcium in 3 cups of milk.
Too little calcium intake increases risk of deficiency while too much can result in soft tissue calcification, constipation, and kidney stones.
TABLE 1. RDA AND UL FOR DIETARY CALCIUM
|AGE (YEARS)||RDA (mg/DAY)||UL (mg/DAY)|
|> 70 years|
Calcium-Rich FISH Foods
To avoid putting a dent in the wallet, canned salmon is a great way to go.
Here’s the catch: It’s the bones in canned salmon that hold all the calcium, so they need to be mashed up right along with the salmon meat for all the benefits!
But don’t get turned off just yet—the canning process softens the bones so they easily break apart and are unnoticeable when mixed in with the rest of the can’s contents.
There’s nothing fishy about sardines—they are one of the healthiest fish to munch on! Along with calcium, they also provide a hefty dose of omega 3s and vitamin D.
Try adding them to a Greek salad or eat ’em straight out of the can.
85 milligrams of canned shrimps contain about 123 milligrams of calcium.
A cup of canned crabs contains 123 milligrams of calcium.
Should I take a calcium supplement?
You should consider a calcium supplement if you cannot get enough from your diet. About 43% of people in the United States take calcium supplements.
For several high risk populations, calcium supplementation may be the only solution for meeting recommended calcium intake levels.
These high risk populations include people who limit or omit dairy products from their diet, such as those with lactose intolerance or those who follow a vegan diet.
And people consuming large amounts of protein or sodium, which leads to excess calcium excretion.
If you have certain medical condition such as osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), or celiac disease your health providers will most likely recommend calcium supplements.
Certain types of calcium supplements are more readily absorbed and vitamin D helps to enhance calcium absorption.
You should always ask your doctor before taking any supplement.
What can too much calcium do to the body? It’s unlikely that you’d get an overwhelming amount of calcium from food sources alone.
In fact, it’s believed that most adults in the U.S., and many other developed nations too, do not get enough calcium on a daily basis from their diets.
However in very high amounts — such as from foods and supplements combined — calcium may cause side effects.
These can include nausea, bloating, constipation (especially calcium carbonate supplements), dry mouth, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, confusion and kidney stones.
If you experience indigestion, diarrhea and cramping when eating dairy foods, avoid these and get calcium from other sources.
You might also find that you can tolerate raw milk, goat’s milk or sheep’s milk products but not conventional dairy from most cows.
If you have a history of kidney stones or gallstones, talk to your doctor about the amount of calcium that is best for you.