Healthy Living

Calcium

Calcium

Why it is so important?

Our bodies contain about 1kg of calcium, making it the most abundant mineral in the human body. Almost 99% of the body's calcium is found in the bones and teeth where its primary role is structural. calcium combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give our bones their strength and structure. The remaining 1% of this vital mineral is dissolved in our blood and soft tissue and helps regulate muscle contractions including your heartbeat, making sure nerves carry messages and blood clots normally.

Remember that the blood will always take priority in using calcium; so if the body does not have enough calcium it takes it from the bones as an emergency supply to ensure the blood and soft tissue has enough calcium to work properly. If your body withdraws more calcium than it deposits over a long period, your bone density and strength will gradually decline and you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis.


Bones act like a calcium "Bank" - if you do not take in enough calcium from your diet, the body will withdraw calcium from your bone "Bank" for use in other parts of the body. If your body withdraws more calcium than it deposits, over a long period your bone density will gradually decline and you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis.

Calcium intake guidelines

The amount of calcium we need to consume changes at different stages in our lives. The International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the following guidelines for calcium intake:

 
Age (Years) Daily calcium intake (mg /day)
Infants 0 to 6 months 200 mg
Infants 6 to 12 months 260 mg
1-3 years 700 mg
4-8 years 1000 mg
9-18 years 1300 mg
19-50 years 1300 mg
50-70 years men 1000 mg
70+ years me 1200 mg
14-18 years old During pregnancy /lactation 1300 mg
19-50 years old During pregnancy /lactation 1000 mg
51+ years post-menopause women 1200 mg
51+ taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) 1000 mg
Source: IOF 2015  

Calcium and the bone remodeling process

As mentioned previously over 99% of the body's calcium is stored in skeletal tissue. The bone remodeling cycle adds and removes around 10% of bone tissue every year. Unfortunately, as people age, the efficiency of the maintenance of the bone modelling cycle goes askew and instead of removing and replacing bone tissue at the same rate, there is an imbalance in the addition and subtraction of bone tissue. This process leads to the thinning of bones, and changes in micro-structure that can lead to the skeleton becoming weak and prone to fractures. It therefore comes as no surprise that this mineral plays a major role in the maintenance of a strong skeleton and that a deficiency of calcium in the diet can lead to the thinning of bone tissue; and is therefore directly related to the development of the osteopenia and osteoporosis condition.

As the bone remodeling process loses efficiency as a person ages it is important to consume adequate amounts of calcium (plus an adequate amount of minerals such as phosphorous, magnesium and the vitamins D and K) in order to help the body carry out the essential maintenance of bone tissue as efficiently as possible. It is therefore essential that a person consumes an adequate amount of calcium in order to help in limiting the quantity of the mineral that is lost from the bones through hormonal action involved in the tight regulation of the body's calcium levels.