Benefits of Calcium
Calcium has a thousand virtues. While this mineral immediately makes us think of the strength of our bones, it plays many other roles in our bodies.
Hypertension, obesity... is an indispensable companion to our health. An overview of the virtues of this essential part of our diet.
Calcium is a very abundant mineral in our body and surely one of the most important; it is a nutrient found in 1000 to 1500 g (especially in top athletes), almost all of which (about 99%) is stored in the bones and teeth. The rest is found in albumin and where it is free in blood plasma.
Calcium makes the bone rigid and strong, so it is important to have a substantial intake of it
Role and functions of Calcium
The most important function of calcium is a structural function, that is, it allows the mineralization of bones and teeth giving them a certain rigidity and strength.
At any given time, bone is being built and reformed, and the supply of this nutrient allows for a constant exchange between bone calcium and blood calcium.
The balance of calcium in our blood is essential for life and in particular for heart function, so its rate (calculation of the rate of calcium levels) is regulated to avoid fatal variations in the body.
Calcium intake is highly recommended during the growth of children and adolescents.
Therefore, it is essential for the proper functioning of the muscles, nerve transmission and secretion of hormones, regardless of age.
Calcium: what is it and where is it found?
Calcium is a mineral salt. It is the most abundant in the body: about 1 to 1.2 kg in adults.
In adults, the recommended dose is 1000 mg of calcium for those 19-23 years old and 950 mg for those over 24 years old. In infants, the requirement is 500 mg, 700 mg in children 4-6 years old, 900 mg in children 7-9 years old, and 1200 mg up to 19 years old.
"It is essential to ensure permanent and sufficient coverage of calcium needs. Having a food intake close to nutritional reference values contributes to this.
This is particularly true during childhood and adolescence, when maximum bone capital is accumulated, as well as when the physiological aging of the bone occurs," reports the Anses.
Calcium is mainly found in dairy products, but also in vegetables, dried fruits and other foods:
- Powdered milk
- The Grana Padano
- Parmesan cheese
- Swiss cheese
- The County
- The Tomme
- The mimolette
- The Sardine
Be aware that some foods and medications can decrease the absorption of calcium from the intestine, such as spinach, rhubarb, dried beans, or medications for gastroesophageal reflux disease.
The benefits of calcium
Most calcium is found in bones and teeth and contributes to their strength.
Based on scientific evidence, health authorities in several countries have determined that foods and food supplements containing calcium can :
- Regulation of energy metabolism;
- Contributes to muscle or nerve function;
- Contribute to the functioning of digestive enzymes;
- Participate in proper blood clotting;
- To help maintain bones and teeth;
- Releasing hormones;
- To be useful for the growth and development of children's bones.
Effective for high blood pressure?
Cardiologists and hypertension specialists point out that calcium is not directly directed at preventing or treating hypertension in a non-pharmacological way. In fact, he analyzes, "the benefits of calcium in hypertension exist but remain very modest.
Calcium supplementation of 500 to 2,000 mg per day does not result in a dramatic reduction in blood pressure: 1.4 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 0.8 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure.
But when calcium intake is combined with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat, the reduction is greater: 5.5 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 3 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure.
A paper against obesity?
Regarding the relationship between calcium and obesity, Professor Heaney of Creighton University in Nebraska says, "The relationship has been shown to be stronger in calcium-deficient diets.
The NHANES III study, conducted in the United States, shows that the lower the calcium intake (less than 450 mg per day), the higher the risk of obesity. Conversely, intakes above 1150 mg per day reduce this risk.
"The Cardia study," Professor Heaney continues, "showed that people who consume a lot of dairy products have a significantly lower risk of developing an obesity-related problem: insulin resistance syndrome.
This risk decreases by 21% with each additional consumption of a dairy product per day.
Professor Heaney's conclusion is clear: "the evidence is strong enough to include a high intake of calcium, in the form of dairy products, in slimming diets".
However, European health authorities (EFSA, European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission) have ruled that foods and food supplements containing calcium cannot claim to "aid or control weight".
Calcium deficiency: what are the risks?
Insufficient calcium intake can cause bone fragility, delayed growth, muscle cramps, numbness, tooth and gum problems, and kidney problems.
Signs of severe calcium deficiency only occur when there are medium- to long-term changes in the bones.
The Anses cites in particular "disorders linked to defects in mineralization of osteoid tissue (rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults) or excessive loss of bone substance (osteoporosis in the elderly)".
Rickets and osteomalacia lead to bone and muscle pain and bone deformation.
Beware of excess
Excessive calcium intake can cause gastrointestinal irritation, bloating, gas, or constipation.
It is specified that in the long term this deficiency may lead to hypercalciuria and thus to kidney stones and nephrocalcinosis, an overdose of vitamin D.
Benefits and virtues
In the body, 99% of the calcium is found in the skeleton, ensuring its solidity. Calcium contributes to good bone growth in children and helps maintain bone capital in adults.
However, calcium not only has an effect on bone strength, but also plays a role in muscle contraction, blood clotting and nerve transmission.
Taken in the form of food supplements, calcium has several medical indications. Therefore, it can be prescribed for various reasons:
Prevention of Osteoporosis
It has been established that a deficiency of calcium and/or vitamin D (which contributes to calcium fixation in bones) increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, vertebral collapse, and even fractures.
Supplementation can then reduce the risk of osteoporosis and its complications. It can be offered to deficient people whose diet is naturally low in calcium (vegetarians, lactose intolerant, allergic to milk proteins).
Prevention of overweight
Several observational studies correlate low dietary calcium intake with a high body mass index, a sign of overweight.
One of them, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in December 2000, conducted on 54 women aged 18-31, who consumed the equivalent of 1900 calories per day for 2 years, shows the effects of low calcium intake on the increase of fat cells.
Women who consumed less than 780 mg of calcium per day increased their fat mass, those who consumed about 780 mg per day maintained a stable weight, and those who consumed about 1000 mg of calcium per day lost fat mass.
Mitigation of PMS symptoms
A 2005 epidemiological study showed that women whose diet was rich in calcium suffered less from PMS than those who consumed little calcium.
The study also showed that calcium supplementation was effective in alleviating the severity of symptoms in women whose diets were naturally low in calcium.
Prevention of high blood pressure during pregnancy
Daily calcium supplementation in pregnant women would reduce the risk of hypertension and thus preeclampsia by 30%.
These positive results are more convincing in women at risk and those whose diet is naturally low in calcium.
There are significant discrepancies in recommended calcium intake among the WHO (World Health Organization).
The WHO recommends a daily intake of 450 mg/day of calcium when AFSSA recommends 900 mg for an adult and up to 1200 mg for women over 50 or men over 65.
The reality of calcium needs is probably halfway between their recommendations, i.e. about 700 mg per day on average.
For calcium supplements for the various indications above, doses of 1 to 1.5 g of calcium per day are recommended.
Since it appears that the body cannot effectively absorb more than 500 mg of calcium in a single dose, it is advisable to divide the supplements into 2-4 500 mg doses.
Calcium supplements are often combined with vitamin D, which helps fix calcium properly.
Side effects and contraindications
Calcium taken in large amounts can interfere with the absorption of other minerals, especially iron, zinc, chromium and manganese.
In the case of concomitant dietary supplements, it is recommended that intakes be spaced at least two hours apart.
Several distant pharmacological treatments of calcium supplements, such as certain antibiotics (quinolone), bisphosphonates, and thyroid hormones, should also be taken.
Calcium combined with high doses of vitamin D may interfere with beta-blocker treatments.
Finally, taking dietary calcium supplements can cause digestive problems such as bloating, constipation and gas in some people.