Most people have heard of calcium. Remember when you were little and your mom told you to drink all your milk so that you could grow big and strong? Well, your mom likely knew what she was talking about! Milk is full of calcium, and calcium is essential to strong teeth and bones.
First discovered in 1808, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body and 99% of the body’s calcium content is concentrated in the bones and teeth with the remaining 1% found in body tissues and fluids where it is used for cell metabolism, muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission.
As most of us are aware, the main purpose of calcium is structural, that is for forming the bones and teeth of the body. Calcium is so vital to the human body that the body will actually de-mineralize bone in order to maintain normal calcium levels if levels are low. When this happens, bones will lose strength and structural integrity leading to disease such as osteoporosis.
Besides the very important function of creating strong bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for the beating of the heart, blood coagulation, glandular secretion and maintaining immune function. A recent study also showed that calcium may help fight the battle against obesity.
While milk is an excellent source of calcium there are many other choices for calcium rich foods. Other dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and even ice cream are excellent sources of calcium, as are leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, tofu and dried fruit. The best way to maintain an adequate amount of calcium in your body is to eat a wide variety of foods rich in the mineral.
If you are calcium deficient, you will be at higher risk for bone disorders such as osteoporosis which is a disease that tends to affect women more than men; however anyone can be at risk. If you have osteoporosis you will suffer from reduced bone density which leads to easy fracture, and damage to the spine. It is essential to a healthy spine that there is enough calcium in your diet. Calcium deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of hypertension, preeclampsia and colon cancer.
If you eat a wide variety of healthy foods you may not need to supplement with calcium at all. However, if you have a family history of calcium deficiency related diseases, or do not receive enough calcium in your diet it would be a good idea to supplement. Other risk factors for calcium deficiency are: coffee and alcohol consumption, sugar or diuretic medicines. Stress may also reduce the amount of calcium that is absorbed.