Calcium makes up about two percent of the overall body weight in adults. A nutrient that is such a big part of our bodies must be consumed in adequate amounts to help our body processes function smoothly. True, calcium helps maintain strong teeth and bones, but there is a lot more that it does too. Not getting the required daily intake of calcium can result in many health issues. Sometimes our diet does not contain the required doses of calcium and for some people, calcium absorption is an issue. In such cases, doctors recommend calcium supplements to overcome the lack of this essential nutrient.
What Are Calcium Supplements?
Calcium is one nutrient that people need throughout their lives, especially kids in their growing years and senior citizens. Though the daily calcium requirement for adults is a little less than that of the other two groups, it is nevertheless a substantial amount - the absence of which can cause physical and emotional problems. Calcium supplements are often used to fill the gap between the amount of calcium you are getting through your diet and your requirement for each day.
Importance of Calcium In the Body
Out of all the calcium that is present in the body, 99 percent is stored in our bones and teeth. It is vital for the bloodstream; it sends nerve signals, releases insulin and regulates muscle contraction. Lack of calcium in the body may give you muscle aches and cramps.
Signs of Calcium Deficiency
Calcium deficiency can be diagnosed on your own. If you have the following symptoms, it means that you need to increase your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium in your diet. Most common signs of calcium deficiency are:
Although these symptoms may be related to other health issues, you should check your calcium intake if you experience any of these problems. If calcium deficiency is not the cause, move on to other diagnoses.
Why Are Calcium Supplements Necessary?
Calcium is required for the body for its essential functions. If there is not enough calcium consumed for the body to use, calcium will be taken away from bones and teeth to be used elsewhere. This will weaken your bones and damage teeth health.
If calcium is used from your bones, it will make them more brittle and prone to fractures, a condition known as osteoporosis. This condition is commonly found in elderly people. Weak bones are harmful and any damage to them will not easily recover. So, if your daily diet does not meet your RDA, you can opt for calcium supplements to fulfill the body’s calcium requirement and maintain strong teeth and bones.
Who Should Take Them?
Children need more calcium, especially in their growing years for the proper formation of bones. Lack of calcium at an early age can cause rickets, a condition that results in weak and flexible bones. These children develop bow-shaped legs and a sunken chest. Women need a good amount of calcium too, especially during child-bearing years. Doctors often prescribe calcium supplements at this time. Adults over the age of 50 are more prone to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Calcium supplements can help these people with this condition or even prevent it.
Apart from this, anyone on a vegan diet, is lactose intolerant, has trouble with calcium being absorbed by the body or suffers irritable bowel syndrome can opt for calcium supplements.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Calcium Supplements?
Helps Prevent Bone Loss
Calcium supplements help prevent aches and cramps that occur due to calcium deficiency. Calcium keeps the bones strong and in shape and prevents osteoporosis and arthritis.
Contributes to Weight Loss
Calcium intake does not directly cause you to lose weight, but the parathyroid hormone (released in case of lack of calcium) stimulates fat production, making you obese. It also signals the bones to release calcium into the bloodstream.
Helps the Heart and the Nervous System
Right amounts of calcium keep the heart muscles relaxing and contracting well. It also maintains blood pressure. In case of calcium deficiency, the hormone calcitriol is released. This causes arterial muscles to contract, resulting in an increase in blood pressure
Prevents Colon Cancer
After the body absorbs the calcium that is needed, the excess is left in the intestines and excreted along with cancer-causing agents in the body through the colon. This is a protective function of calcium.
Lack of calcium causes the release of certain hormones responsible for mood swings, dizziness, irritability and depression. Calcium supplements work wonders not just for the body but for your mind.
Restores Dental Health
Calcium aids in maintaining a strong jaw and gums, giving you healthy teeth and good gum health.
Types of Calcium Supplements
Calcium supplements are available in two main forms:
- Calcium Carbonate
- Calcium Citrate
The quantity of elemental calcium in these two forms is different and so is the way in which they are absorbed by the body. Calcium carbonate is the most common supplement form available and is not very expensive. It contains 40 percent elemental calcium. It is advised that calcium carbonate be taken along with food to enhance its absorption into blood.
Calcium citrate is more expensive and contains 21 percent of elemental calcium. Hence, higher doses of this form would be required. But the advantage is that it is more easily absorbed by the body than calcium carbonate, and this can be taken with or without food.
Calcium supplements can be taken in various forms: tablets, capsules, powders and liquids. Calcium supplements are recommended in liquid form as absorption of this form is 5 times higher than that of pills.
A doctor can prescribe the appropriate form to be taken depending on your body’s absorption capacity.
Possible Risks of Taking Calcium Supplements
There are certain risks involved in taking supplements, and although these are controversial and sometimes, not proven, it is better to be aware of the potential dangers.
Contributes to Heart Disease
There is not enough study on this issue, but some experts say that high doses of calcium are responsible for heart attacks or strokes while some others refute this or insist on combining calcium with vitamin D to avoid this.
Increases Risk of Kidney Stones
This is the most common risk associated with calcium intake. Some say this is a myth or that calcium actually prevents kidney stones. There is more research to be done on this, but it is correct that an overdose of calcium can definitely have a negative impact on your kidneys.
Calcium overdose can cause hypercalcemia. This is a condition in which you have a higher concentration of calcium in your body. It is characterized by nausea, stomach ache, irritability and depression. Higher doses of vitamin D supplements can also cause hypercalcemia as the vitamin encourages the body to absorb more calcium.
Things to Keep In Mind
How much calcium your body needs depends on your age and gender. Kids aged 1-3 years old require 700 mg calcium per day. Those 4-8 years old need 1000 mg per day. Between the ages of 9 and 18 years, children need 1300mg calcium. By this age, bones have developed correctly, and the calcium intake need not increase any further during adulthood.
Adults in the age group of 19-50 years require 1000mg of calcium in their daily diet. From the age of 51 to 70 years, males continue to need 1000mg calcium per day whereas females need 1200mg per day. And everybody above the age of 71 years needs 1200 mg calcium dose daily. This is necessary, keeping in mind bone weakening and other health issues related to age.
Only the right amount of calcium intake will have a positive effect on the body. Always calculate your daily calcium intake, and take calcium supplements only to cover the difference that may be lacking. The upper limit to calcium consumption is about 2500mg daily. Do not consume more calcium than this amount.
Taking Vitamin D along with calcium supplements helps in better absorption of calcium. Divide your daily dosage. Only take 500mg at once. So 1000mg calcium supplements can be taken twice a day, preferably with food. The body cannot process more than 500g of calcium at once.
Discuss with your doctor any other medication or supplements you may be taking for these can interfere with calcium absorption or vice versa.
Calcium: how often have we heard people harping on the fact that it is important to drink milk regularly for strong teeth and bones? Milk is a good source of calcium, however, it is not the only food source for calcium. The best way to consume calcium is through food, like dairy products and lentils. But if you still lack the daily dose of calcium, calcium supplements can be taken under medical supervision. Follow the dosage and consumption instructions carefully to ensure the maximum calcium absorption for your body.