IN THIS ARTICLE
Calcium has a key role in the body. Learn everything about the most important mineral.
Why calcium is so important for health
Calcium is a mineral that is abundant both on earth and in the human body. It is known for its key role in bone health, teeth and body organs. It plays an important role in nerve function and as a cellular messenger. Our body uses the mineral for blood clotting and the release of certain hormones (e.g. insulin). The mineral is also incredibly important for normal heartbeat and all other muscles in the body.
Considering this vital role, the body constantly keeps calcium in the bloodstream. Our bones and teeth act as natural stores for the mineral. When blood calcium levels are low due to insufficient dietary intake, the body takes the mineral from our bones. This can affect bone strength and lead to steady bone loss. The end result can then be osteoporosis.
Replacing the lost amount of calcium on a daily basis is therefore essential for maintaining a normal calcium stock in the bones and thus for bone health. Here, for example, the Bone Nanza Calcium Complex from Ogaenics can support.
How much calcium does the body need?
When it comes to the daily amount of calcium, the opinions of the instances differ slightly.
According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), adults need 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. However, this requirement is an estimate and may vary based on individual circumstances. The requirement for pregnant and breastfeeding women is also estimated by the DGE at 1,000 mg. You should consume the recommended amount of the mineral per day through food or supplements.
|Teenagers and adults
|mg calcium per day
|15 to under 19 years
|19 to under 25 years
|25 to under 51 years
|51 to under 65 years
|65 years and older
The German government’s National Nutrition Survey (NVS II) showed that a large proportion of female adolescents in particular, as well as people aged 65 and over, fall significantly short of these intake recommendations.
However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set the daily nutrient intake for calcium at 800 mg. This is also the reference value to which dosages on packages of food supplements in Europe must refer. These reference values do not represent the latest research and are used to help consumers compare different products in Europe. They are required by law.
The best sources of calcium in food
Unfortunately, the human body does not produce calcium itself, so our diet is crucial. Dairy products are a good source of the vital mineral. But about 65% of adults in the world have lactose intolerance. This means that many of us cannot digest milk or dairy products well – so we cannot comfortably rely on dairy products as a source of calcium. Also, there are people who eat a vegan and plant-based diet and thus would not consume calcium from dairy products. Here’s an overview of the biggest vegan calcium sources:
|Calcium rich foods
in the vegan diet
|mg per 100 g
As a vegetarian or vegan, it is therefore not particularly easy to obtain an optimal supply of the mineral through food. Supplementation can help prevent calcium deficiency.
Am I getting enough calcium?
Some groups of people have more difficulty consuming enough calcium than others:
Women after menopause
Because they experience more bone loss and cannot absorb calcium as well. Adequate intake of the mineral through diet and, if needed, supplements can slow the rate of bone loss.
Women without menstruation
The condition in which menstruation stops or does not start in women of childbearing age often results from too much exercise and too little food intake. This leads to reduced estrogen levels, which have a negative effect on calcium balance. In anorexia nervosa (anorexia), these women have decreased absorption and higher urinary calcium excretion rates and lower rates of bone formation than healthy women. Therefore, sufficient calcium and vitamin D should be supplied in the form of supplements.
People with lactose intolerance
People with lactose intolerance cannot digest this natural sugar in milk and suffer symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea if they drink more than small amounts at a time. You can usually eat other calcium-rich dairy products that contain little lactose, such as yogurt and many cheeses, and drink lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk. Those who do not like it should definitely supplement.
Vegans (vegetarians who do not eat animal products) and ovo-vegetarians (vegetarians who eat eggs but not dairy products) because they avoid dairy products, which are a major source of the mineral in other people’s diets.
How do I recognize a calcium deficiency?
Unfortunately, there are no early signs of calcium deficiency. That’s what makes it so treacherous. This is because the body then simply takes the missing calcium from the body’s stores, i.e. bones and teeth. This leads to bone loss. When late signs such as bone fractures appear, the bone mass is already greatly minimized and it is in principle too late, osteoporosis is imminent. That’s why prevention is so important.
Symptoms of severe calcium deficiency include numbness and tingling in the fingers, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms that can be life-threatening.
The best way to find out if you’re eating enough of the vital mineral is to check your diet for a few days. If there is a family history of osteoporosis, get a bone density scan from your doctor, which can show the beginnings of bone loss.
What effects does calcium have on health?
There are exciting results from science on the benefits of supplementing with calcium, which we would like to briefly present here.
Bone health and osteoporosis
Bones need plenty of calcium and vitamin D during childhood and adolescence. As a result, they reach their maximum strength at the age of about 30. After that, they slowly lose their calcium density. To reduce this loss, it is important to consume the recommended amounts of the mineral in adulthood. Also, be physically active with weight bearing, such as walking and running.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease in older adults, but 80 percent of them are women. With osteoporosis, bones become porous, brittle and more prone to fracture. Osteoporosis is a serious health problem for about six million people in Germany. Calcium and vitamin D, as well as regular exercise, are important for keeping bones healthy throughout life.
According to a major study, calcium from dairy products and supplements may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Many other studies also came to this conclusion. However, there are also studies in which this has not been confirmed. Because cancer develops over many years, longer-term studies are especially needed for greater clarity.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition in pregnancy that is characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and edema. It is feared because it increases the risk of premature birth. Initial studies show that calcium supplementation can be used to prevent preeclampsia. Vitamin D may also have a beneficial effect, but further studies are needed to confirm the results.
PCO syndrome is a disorder in the hormonal cycle of women. Male hormones are overproduced, often resulting in male body hair and stature. Irregular or missed periods, hair loss, oily skin and acne may also be associated. One study showed that calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc had positive effects on many aspects of PCOS over 12 weeks.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to various physical and emotional complaints related to the menstrual cycle. They occur in the week before menstruation and end when menstruation begins. Various studies show that calcium can help with PMS. One study indicated that women with PMS have lower intakes of calcium and magnesium.
A large meta-study determined that calcium supplements can reduce body weight. This is true in individuals with normal BMI, as well as in children and adolescents, adult men, or premenopausal women.
Some scientists have also found a link between a poor calcium supply and a high body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI).
Overweight college students lost more body fat while dieting if they took a supplement containing calcium and vitamin D at the same time.
Calcium also plays an important role for the skin. Most calcium in the skin is found in the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis). There it helps regulate the formation of new skin and replace old skin cells. Skin that does not have enough calcium stored in the epidermis may appear brittle, thin and dry. This is caused by a calcium deficiency.
What influences calcium absorption
Calcium in the food you eat is always bound to another molecule. And to actually be absorbed and utilized by your body, it must first be ionized by stomach acid.
We generally absorb on average only about 30 percent of the calcium we get from food. Calcium absorption is highest when we are young. At this time, the need for this mineral is the highest, so that we can reach the maximum bone growth at the age of about 30 years. After the age of 30, calcium absorption decreases rapidly.
Most middle-aged and older adults can absorb only 15% or less of the calcium they consume in their diet. While many factors other than aging can negatively affect calcium absorption – such as inadequate chewing of food, eating while standing, eating too quickly, and drinking too much liquid at meals – too little stomach acid, also known as hydrochloric acid or HCL, is often the cause.
The problem is that many of us actually have low stomach acid. When stomach acid is low due to stress, H. Pylori or other bacterial infections, use of antacids, inflammation of the stomach lining due to food intolerances or certain medications, or a number of other reasons, calcium from food simply cannot be ionized and absorbed and passes through the body unused.
Attention, this inhibits calcium absorption
People around the world are consuming less and less calcium through their diet. There are a plethora of environmental factors that can be blamed for this, as well as a variety of dietary and lifestyle choices that negatively impact our calcium intake. These factors particularly often impair the absorption and utilization of the mineral:
This disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder characterized by gluten intolerance. It often goes undiagnosed in both children and adults. Celiac disease alters the intestinal mucosa and impairs the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin D and minerals such as calcium. Therefore, the supply must be increased.
Coffee (and tea) consumption
The caffeine in coffee, tea as well as most sodas acts as a mild diuretic so that valuable calcium is excreted before the body can utilize it. Consumption of these beverages in small amounts is safe, but excessive consumption can lead to decreased absorption, requiring more calcium through diet and supplements.
Studies of smokers show decreased bone mass. The reason for this is not exactly known, but it seems that smoking interferes with the absorption of calcium in the intestine. This means that as a smoker, you should specifically look for more calcium in your diet and supplements.
Phytic acid is found in the bran coating of whole grains and binds calcium and other nutrients, preventing them from being absorbed in the intestines. At the same time, such foods also contain phytase, an enzyme that ensures that the body can better absorb nutrients. Therefore, it is the content of phytase that matters, especially in whole grain foods.
Rye, for example, is particularly rich in phytase, so breads made from rye flour or meal contain less phytic acid than comparable products made from wheat. Finely milled whole wheat flour also has more phytase than a coarsely milled one. So if you consume a lot of whole grain breads and cereals, you should pay attention to this or, if necessary, simply take additional calcium via a dietary supplement.
Calcium as a dietary supplement
Calcium carbonate is the calcium compound most commonly used in dietary supplements. At 40%, it has the highest proportion of elemental calcium of all calcium compounds.
Calcium carbonate, which does not come from plants, is usually derived from limestone (essentially chalk) and has a flat, simple structure that lacks other bone-supporting nutrients. It is used a lot in conventional calcium supplements because it is the cheapest form of calcium.
Vegetable calcium carbonate as we use it in BONE NANZA is quite different. It comes from organic seaweed that is sustainably harvested by hand. Ogaenics Bone Nanza Calcium Complex is made with high quality plant calcium from the sea, called red calcareous algae (Lithothamnium).
There is also calcium citrate as a synthetic form of dietary supplement. It is artificially produced and contains only 21% of elemental calcium, requiring more capsules per daily dose than plant calcium.
How should calcium be taken?
Calcium can only be absorbed by the body if vitamin D is also present. Therefore, there should be no vitamin D deficiency and the calcium supplement should ideally contain vitamin D at the same time.
Calcium supplements should also always be taken with a meal. The body can then absorb the mineral 10-30 percent better due to the presence of stomach acid.
In addition, when large doses are taken, they should be divided to increase the body’s ability to absorb them.
The time of ingestion, on the other hand, plays virtually no role for absorption in the body, as long as it is taken with a meal.
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