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Calcium Benefits

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 21 Jun 2012 | comments*Discuss
Calcium Nutrition Absorption Dietary

There is more calcium in the human body than any other mineral. The average male carries about 1.5 kg of calcium, the average female, about 1 kg, 99% of which is present in the teeth and the bones. The other 1% is contained in tissues and body fluids where it contributes to cell function, muscle and brain activity.

Calcium's Roles

Calcium's number one role is to strengthen the structural components of the bines. However, hormones control the passage of calcium from the skeletal system throughout the vascular system and to other parts of the body. Calcium also plays an important role in the cells where it is responsible for altering the biological activity of proteins. Besides being a nutrient, calcium binds with bile acids and dietary fat so that they are carried out in the feces rather than being absorbed. This protects the colon and rectum, and is a generally unnoticed benefit of a diet containing adequate calcium. Vitamin D is needed in order for your body to absorb calcium. Calcium deficiency can cause rickets in growing children and osteomalacia and osteoporosis, in adults.

Calcium Intake

So how much calcium do we need? There is currently a variance between the daily recommendations and optimal health recommendations, as revealed in the following table.

Recommended daily intake:

Adults under 65 = 800mg
Adults over 65 = N/A
Pregnant and nursing women = 1,200mg
Young adults (11-14) = 1,200mg
Children under 11 = 800mg

Optimal daily intake:

Adults under 65 = 1,000mg
Adults over 65 = 1,500mg
Pregnant and nursing women = 1,200-1,500mg
Young adults (11-14) = 1,200mg
Children under 11 = 800-1,000mg

Equally, too much calcium can be bad for you. Although it is safe for adults to consume up to 2,000 mg of calcium every day without adverse side effects, going over that may lower the absorption of some other nutrients, including iron, and certain medications, such as tetracycline.

Natural Dietary Sources of Calcium

Calcium is present in whole host of foods. These include all dairy products, most soy products, cruciferous vegetables, seeds, nuts and dried fruit. Another good source of calcium is a natural supplement called calcium citrate. Bad supplement sources include calcium carbonate and oyster shell. These are not well absorbed or utilized. Do not use bone meal due to risk of prion diseases. Avoid regular use of antacids as calcium supplements.

Calcium Absorption

Some substances can prevent the absorption of calcium. One of these is phytic acid, which is found in whole grain cereals and some raw vegetables. Saturated fats are another as is uronic acid, a constituent in dietary fibre.

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