Calcium is an essential macromineral, that is necessary for the body in order to fortify bones, teeth and connective tissues, control the contraction and relaxation of muscles, monitor heart activity, normalize blood clotting processes as well as smoothly transmit nerve impulses between cells in the body. Also Check Out: 5 Foods That Are Incredibly Rich In Calcium: Infographic
Although four minerals - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, compose about 96% of the human body by weight, they are not considered essential minerals but are termed as structural minerals.
Essential minerals are those that cannot be synthesized by the body and need to be supplied in the form of diet or supplements, which the system requires to perform a specific set of functions. They broadly fall into two categories:
Major Minerals Or Macrominerals:
The macrominerals are Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Sodium and Potassium.
Minor Minerals Or Trace Elements:
The trace elements are Iron, Zinc, Manganese, Molybdenum, Copper, Cobalt, Iodine, Selenium, Sulphur and Chlorine.
Calcium comprises about 2% of total body weight in an average healthy adult, is mainly concentrated in the bones, teeth and skeletal assembly, with a small amount stored in the blood and other tissues.
Although calcium was first isolated in the year 1808 by the renowned English scientist, Sir Humphrey Davy, through electrolysis of lime and mercury extracts, its crucial roles in the human body were discovered soon after. In fact, calcium is recorded as part of the List Of Essential Medicines published by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Enhances Bone Strength
Calcium in the body is stored in the form of calcium phosphate in the bones in the arms, legs and skeletal muscles of the spinal cord. Right from childhood, adolescence to becoming a young adult and ageing further, calcium is absolutely necessary for maintaining optimal bone health. As bones are the fundamental connective tissues in the body providing structure and stability, encompassing and protecting the more sensitive internal organs such as lungs, stomach, liver, brain, heart and kidney, consuming the mineral calcium in adequate amounts is very important to keep them robust and sturdy.
Regulates Nerve Signaling
Neurons or nerve cells are the specialised cells in the brain, which are capable of transmitting vital information such as transport of nutrients via blood, response to severe pain, temperature variations, strong tastes and harsh environmental conditions to the muscles, bones and other organs and tissues, so as to evoke the appropriate voluntary action to nurture the body and defend the system from any harm or injury. Calcium in the form of calcium ions forms part of these elaborate biochemical signaling processes, to facilitate the smooth transmission of nerve impulses and maintain overall health and harmony in the body.
Normalizes Cardiac Muscle Activity
The heart is one of the chief organs in the body. An intrinsic network of cardiac muscles works tirelessly all day, to pump blood in and out of the heart, to various other cells and tissues. The filaments present within the cardiac muscles obtain a charge due to calcium ions, regulating their polarization and depolarization. This in turn aids in proper contraction and relaxation of heart muscles, ensuring the process does not occur too rapidly or slowly. Thus, calcium assists in upholding blood pressure levels within the normal range and augments heart health.
Promotes Dental Health
Calcium optimizes the resilience of teeth and gums, by working in synergy with two other central essential nutrients, namely vitamin D and phosphorous. This is also the reason why many toothpastes come infused with calcium salts. Being an inherent hardening element, calcium aids in toughening the jawbones, which defend the teeth and gums against wounds from external physical force and other disease-causing microbes. Calcium is a mandatory nutritional requirement to preserve the good health of teeth and gums for people of all ages.
Balances Hormone Levels
Calcium circulates in the bloodstream in the form of calcium ions. It plays a key role in standardizing the functions of various hormones in the body, including the reproductive hormones progesterone, estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Calcium is a critical prerequisite for ensuring timely menstrual cycles in young women as well as alleviating symptoms of pain in premenstrual syndrome, and fatigue, weakness in menopause. The intake of calcium gradually increases as women age, with those in the adolescent, pregnant and post-menopausal phases requiring much higher levels of daily intake. Also Read: Calcium - Important Mineral For Women's Health
Calcium is extensively available in a host of natural foods bestowed upon us by Mother Nature. The following foods are incredible sources, for children, young adults, middle-aged and the elderly, to meet their daily requirements of calcium.
Milk, yoghurt, buttermilk, cheese
Broccoli, cabbage, spinach
Orange, kiwi, papaya
Nuts And Legumes:
Almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, bean and sprout varieties
Cereals, juices, breads are incorporated with calcium
In instances where the diet consumed by people on a regular basis is not balanced and food sources of calcium are difficult to obtain, consuming calcium supplements every day vastly improves calcium levels in the body. Calcium in supplements in the form of tablets, capsules and syrups, is usually found in the form of two salts of calcium - calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
Nevertheless, always seek advice from a professional medical practitioner, to know the exact time and dosage at which calcium supplements must be taken. This averts the risk of any side effects due to the overconsumption of calcium.
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When calcium levels in the blood and bones decrease tremendously, it is referred to as hypocalcemia. This negatively affects bone strength, hormonal balance, nerve signal transmission as well as cardiac muscle functioning.
Apart from less intake of calcium by means of diet or supplements, lack of adequate vitamin D and phosphorous also influence poor calcium profile in the body.
As calcium is integral to bone structure and function, low calcium levels invariably result in osteoporosis and arthritis, where optimal bone density and flexible joint movement are hampered respectively.
Hence, it is crucial to consume sufficient calcium in food or supplemental form, to steer clear of these debilitating deficiency diseases.
Mineral accumulation in the system could give rise to serious repercussions. As calcium is ingested in the system, it is also a necessity to ensure the required amount is utilised to carry out numerous different tasks and the excess calcium is excreted by means of sweat and urine.
When calcium levels in the body rise above normal, it results in gas, bloating, constipation and even kidney and heart complications.
It is hence absolutely essential to consult a physician, to find out the current calcium status of the body and consume the essential mineral from food sources and supplements in the appropriate amounts, in moderation.
Calcium is a primary requirement for people of all ages, for bone, nervous system and heart health. This essential mineral enables people to perform various day-to-day activities. Hence, it must be ingested in the right amounts and from natural sources as much as possible, to avoid any grave consequences that may arise from toxic levels of calcium in the body.