It’s important to remember that we are made of the elements of this earth, and we get those elements into our bodies by eating. Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, and it is also the fifth most abundant element in our oceans, so it should come as no surprise to learn that it is also the fifth most abundant metal by mass in our bodies, and is an essential element for every living organism. In Hollywood, the Fifth Element may be love, but in the rest of the world, it’s calcium.
When we hear the word calcium we automatically think of bones and teeth. And milk. We know that these are related, milk bones and teeth, we know that bones-and teeth- are made mostly of calcium, and therefore we should make sure that we get enough of it. And milk is a good source of calcium, so drink lots of it. It’s that simple, right? Well, sort of.
This dietary element- or mineral nutrient-has many vital applications in our bodies, for muscle, heart and digestive system health, as well as the creation and support of blood cells and of course the manufacture of bones, which are made of collagen (a woven protein that gives bones their strength and flexibility that resists breakage) and calcium in the form of calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate, adding additional strength and helping to harden the framework. If you’ve seen limestone or chalk, you’ve seen calcium carbonate, and calcium combined with phosphate makes up a compound called hydroxylapatite, which makes up 70% of the weight of human bones and teeth. In our bodies, a whopping 99% of the calcium is found in our bones.
But the thing is, our bodies are constantly changing, and our bones are in constant need of growth, maintenance and repair; old bone is broken down (resorbed) and new bone is added to the skeleton. The problem occurs when bone loss exceeds bone formation. So we have to keep making sure we add just enough calcium to our diet to avoid this, about a gram a day for adults and 1.2 g for those over 50.
“Most new bone is added during childhood and teenage years. As a result, bones become larger, heavier, and stronger (denser). Bone formation continues until the peak bone mass (maximum solidness and strength) is reached. Peak bone mass (or bone density) is reached around age 30. After age 30, bone resorption slowly begins to exceed new bone formation. This leads to bone loss. Bone loss in women occurs fastest in the first few years after menopause, but bone loss continues into old age. Factors that can contribute to bone loss include having a diet low in calcium, not exercising, smoking, and taking certain medications such as corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are medications prescribed for a wide range of diseases, including arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and other diseases. Corticosteroids may cause osteoporosis when used chronically.”-emedecinehealth
Here’s the recommended adequate intake of calcium per day:
|51–70 years (male)||1000|
|51–70 years (female)||1200|
As we know, dairy products like milk and cheese are a good source of calcium, with 305 mg of calcium per cup (225 ml). For those who avoid milk, there are several other good plant-based sources of calcium, most notably seaweeds like kelp, whole grains, nuts, soy and other legumes, molasses, vegetables like broccoli and leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and rhubarb. So eat these, responsibly and regularly, and you’ll avoid the tell-tale symptoms of calcium deficiency like weak or cracking fingernails, insomnia, muscle aches and cramping and spasms, and more significant loss of bone density that can lead to brittle and easily broken bones, osteoporosis and rickets. You are what you eat!