Calcium is a mineral that plays an important role in maintaining your health. It aids in body functions such as healthy bones and teeth, blood clotting and even function of the muscles and nerve impulses. The majority of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth and a much smaller portion is in the blood and other body tissue. Our bodies obtain calcium through two sources. One is by our diet. Eating healthy foods rich in calcium such as dairy products, dark leafy greens, kelp, nuts, oysters, shrimp and dried beans are a good way to obtain calcium in the body. The second way is by pulling it from your bones. This happens when your blood calcium levels drop too low from not having enough calcium in your meals. Under normal circumstances, you are borrowing this calcium temporarily, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can easily replace it by eating more calcium rich foods.
Calcium and Osteoporosis
Our bones are a living tissue that is constantly changing throughout our lifetime. A process called remodeling is the deterioration and rebuilding of bone. This process of reshaping our bones happens quite often in our younger years. We replace our entire skeleton in our first year of life and then, as adults, we replace bone at a rate of about 10% a year. This formation occurs by osteoblasts, which are bone building cells and osteoclasts which are cells that break down bone. The osteoblasts, or bone builders, exceed the number of osteoclasts, which beak down bone, until we hit about 30 yrs old. Then the number of bone cells reverses so the cells that break down bone outnumber the bone builders. This is important to know because one of the ways to fight osteoporosis is to provide a strong foundation and maximize our bone stores through calcium absorption when we are young. Therefore we can help to reduce the rate of deterioration of bone later in life.
It appears that calcium absorption is greatest when during childhood and tapers off as we get older. Therefore building a strong foundation in preadolescent and adolescent years can help to reduce the risk of bone deterioration, and may also slow loss of bone later in life. The National Institute of Health recommends that, in addition to a healthy diet, adult women have a daily supplemental calcium intake of 1000 to 1200 mg before menopause and 1300 to 1500 mg after menopause. In general, by increasing lifelong calcium intake to between 1000 and 1500 mg/day will have positive effects on bone mass and will presumably reduce the risk of fractures. Consult a Registered Dietician if you have questions regarding how you should supplement calcium into your healthy diet.