why is calcium important for the body
You probably heard "drink your milk" all the time from your parents when you were a kid, and you knew it was good for you. But now you may opt for sodas or sports drinks, and other than adding a splash to your morning Wheaties, you don't give much thought to milk. But your parents were right to make you drink milk when you were little. It's loaded with calcium, a mineral vital for building strong bones and teeth. Why Do I Need Calcium? Bones grow rapidly during adolescence, and teens need enough calcium to build strong bones and fight bone loss later in life. But many don't get the recommended daily amount of calcium. In addition, people who smoke or drink soda, caffeinated beverages, or alcohol may get even less calcium because those substances interfere with the way the body absorbs and uses calcium. Bone calcium begins to decrease in young adulthood and people gradually lose bone density as they age particularly women. Teens, especially girls, whose diets don't provide the nutrients to build bones to their maximum potential are at greater risk of developing the bone disease osteoporosis, which increases the risk of fractures from weakened bones. Calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction, transmitting messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones. If people aren't getting enough calcium in their diet, the body takes calcium from the bones to ensure normal cell function, which can lead to weakened bones. If you got enough calcium and physical activity when you were a kid and continue to do so as a teen, you'll enter your adult years with the strongest bones possible. How Much Do I Need and Where Can I Get It? Teen guys and girls need 1,300 mg (milligrams) of calcium each day. Dairy products. Low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese are good sources of calcium. Veggies. You'll also find calcium in broccoli and dark green, leafy vegetables (especially collard and turnip greens, kale, and bok choy). Soy foods. Turn to calcium-fortified (or "calcium-set") tofu, soy milk, tempeh, soy yogurt, and cooked soybeans (edamame). Calcium-fortified foods. Look for calcium-fortified orange juice, soy or rice milk, breads, and cereal. Beans. You can get decent amounts of calcium from baked beans, navy beans, white beans, and others. Canned fish. You're in luck if you like sardines and canned salmon with bones. Almond milk. Looking for ways to up your dietary calcium intake? Here are some easy ones:
Put some cheddar in your omelet. Pack a yogurt in your lunch. Add white beans to your favorite soups. Add a slice of American, Swiss, or provolone to sandwiches. Use whole-grain soft-taco shells or tortillas to make burritos or wraps. Fill them with eggs and cheese for breakfast; turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and light dressing for lunch; and beans, salsa, taco sauce, and cheese for dinner. Create mini-pizzas by topping whole-wheat English muffins or bagels with pizza sauce and low-fat mozzarella or soy cheese. Try whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese as an afternoon treat. Dig into chili with red beans and cheese. Eat low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt topped with fruit. Create parfaits with layers of plain yogurt, fruit, and whole-grain cereal.
You're never too old to enjoy a glass of ice-cold milk with a couple of cookies or graham crackers. Teens who are lactose intolerant don't have enough of the intestinal enzyme lactase that helps digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy products, and may have gas, bloating, cramps, or diarrhea after drinking milk or eating dairy products. Fortunately, low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products are readily available, as are lactase drops that can be added to dairy products and tablets that can be taken to make dairy products tolerable. Hard, aged cheeses (such as cheddar) are also lower in lactose, and yogurts that contain active cultures are easier to digest and much less likely to cause lactose problems. It can be a challenge to get enough calcium in a vegetarian diet that does not include dairy, but you can enjoy good sources of calcium such as dark green, leafy vegetables, broccoli, chickpeas, and calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy and rice drinks, and cereals. is essential for calcium absorption, so it's important to get enough of this nutrient too. Made by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is also found in fortified dairy and other products, fish, and egg yolks. If you are not getting enough vitamin D in your diet, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement. Exercise is very important to bone health. Weight-bearing exercises such as jumping rope, jogging, and walking can help develop and maintain strong bones. In fact, current scientific evidence suggests that for teens, exercise may be even more strongly linked to better bone health than calcium intake. Although it's best to get the calcium you need through a calcium-rich diet, sometimes it may not be possible. Discuss calcium supplements with your doctor if you're concerned that you're not getting enough. You probably know that calcium is good for you. But in reality, youre probably murky on the details as to why its so important, and like many people, you may not be getting enough calcium in your diet. One reason may be because milk isnt your favorite beverageбwhether youre lactose intolerant or you just plain dont like it. But there are lots of different ways to get the calcium you need, and you may be surprised how important it is for your health. Yes, calcium is key for the health of your bones and teeth, but it also affects your muscles, hormones, nerve function, and ability to form blood clots. Plus, research has suggestedбalthough not yet confirmedбthat calcium may help other problems like PMS, high blood pressure, and possibly weight gain. Calcium 101 Calcium is the most common mineral found in the body and is required for the formation of bones and for bodily functions like muscle contractions and blood clotting. Almost all the calcium in our bodies is stored in the bones and teeth. While bones feel rock hard, theyre actually living tissue that is constantly in flux; new bone is being created while old bone is destroyed. When youre young, the process is skewed toward bone creation, and you have increasing bone density as you age, peaking at about age 30. After that, the process reaches equilibrium in adulthood.
Then, as we age, the process can tip toward destruction, which can result in less dense, weaker bones. So where does calcium come in? By having an adequate intake of calcium, youre giving your body the building blocks to fuel all its important functions, as well as to knit new bone tissue. If you dont get enough calcium, the body will БstealБ calcium thats stored in bones to make sure it has enough to meet the bodys needs. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams per day for people ages 9 and up. But guess what? Some people fall short. A found that, while the majority of people do get enough calcium, girls ages 9Б18 are the exception. In addition, a University of Maryland study found calcium intake to be too low for most people, particularly young women. The study found the average consumption in girls ages 9 to 18 to be about 814 milligrams daily. While women between 40 and 59 years of age increased their consumption over time, intake in children 6 to 11 years old dropped. Beyond your bones About 99% of the calcium in your body is found in your bones and teeth, but the remaining 1% is pretty important. Researchers think calcium may be important for the following, although more study is needed to confirm the links: Regulating blood pressure: A review of clinical trials in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that calcium supplementation helped lower systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood-pressure reading) in people with and without hypertension. Another study in the American Journal of Critical Nutrition found that men in California who had high blood pressure consumed less calcium than men without hypertension. Curbing PMS: Getting enough calcium could even reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Calcium levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycleбas estrogen levels increase, calcium concentrations drop, according to Susan Thys-Jacobs, MD, the clinical director of the Metabolic Bone Center at St. LukesБRoosevelt Hospital Center in New York. Dr. Thys-Jacobs conducted a review of studies looking at calcium supplementation and PMS in women. She found that an adequate intake of calcium over time seemed to reduce PMS symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, depression, headaches, and cramps. Maintaining a healthy weight: Calcium may also play a role in weight loss. In a British Journal of Nutrition study, obese women who consumed less than 600 milligrams of calcium daily went on a diet and took either a placebo or a 1,200-milligram calcium supplement daily. The women taking calcium lost 13 pounds during the program, while those taking the placebo lost about 2 pounds. As for cancer prevention, you may have heard of studies linking calcium intake with a reduction in colorectal cancer, breast cancer in premenopausal women, and a slight reduction in overall cancer risk. However, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) does not recommend the use of calcium supplements to reduce cancer risk, and it says they may even increase the risk of prostate cancer. Should you get calcium from food or supplements? Calcium is found in relatively high concentrations in dairy products: One cup of skim milk has about 302 milligrams of calcium, 8 ounces of yogurt has between 250 and 400 milligrams, and 1. 5 ounces of cheddar cheese has 306 milligrams.
But for those who cant, or choose not to, eat dairy, there are other foods that are high in calcium, including green, leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, and soy products. Chad Deal, MD, the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease, recommends that people take calcium supplements in two doses of 500 to 600 milligrams, for a total of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams daily. The body has difficulty absorbing more than that at one time and any excess will be excreted. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of kidney stones in individuals who may be getting too much calcium (called hypercalcemia), but because of the way the body absorbs the mineral, this is a rare occurrence, says Dr. Deal. Research in recent years suggests that postmenopausal women who take calcium supplements could have a 25% to 30% higher risk of heart attacks than those who dont. Although some doctors are skeptical, and more studies are needed to know whether taking calcium supplements really is a heart risk factor, others are advising patients to get their calcium from their diet. (Food calcium has not been associated with heart disease. ) There are two main kinds of calcium supplements readily available on the market: citrate and carbonate. The main differences between the two, Dr. Deal says, is that carbonate offers more calcium per tablet, so consumers can take fewer pills. Also, people with low amounts of stomach acidбlike patients on proton pump inhibitors for acid refluxбbetter absorb citrate. Supplementing with calcium can cause nausea, gas, and constipation, but Dr. Deal says trying a different type of supplement can often rectify this. While citrate and carbonate are the most common type of calcium supplements, there are others available, including calcium phosphate, gluconate, and lactate. So no matter how you get it, taking in enough calcium is vital for a strong, healthy body. БCalcium is critical for heart and muscle function,Б Dr. Deal says. БIn fact, its pretty clear that calcium has an effect on a number of functions, as well as preservation of bone mass and helping to reduce fracture risk. Б with Dr. Duffy MacKay What is calcium? Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life and can be found throughout the body and in many foods. Why is calcium important? Calcium is important to build stronger, denser bones early in life and to keep bones strong and healthy later in life. Unfortunately many Americans do not get the amount of calcium they need every day. About 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth, supporting their structure and stability. In addition to building bones and keeping them strong and healthy, calcium helps blood clot, nerves send messages, muscles contract, and other body functions. Our bodies cannot produce calcium on their own, which is why itБs important to try to get enough calcium through diet or through supplementation.
When we donБt get enough calcium for our bodyБs needs, calcium is taken from our bones. How can calcium help make me healthy? At any age, you can benefit greatly from calcium. During childhood and adolescence, a proper intake of calcium plus vitamin D helps build optimum bone mass. Throughout adulthood, calcium will slow the rate of bone loss that naturally occurs with aging. Substantial research has demonstrated supplementing with calcium and vitamin D to be effective in maintaining or increasing bone density, preventing osteoporosis, and potentially in protecting health in other ways as well. What foods contain calcium? Dairy products, such milk, yogurt and cheese, are high in calcium. Certain green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage, and other foods, such as fish, contain calcium in smaller amounts. Calcium-fortified foods and calcium supplements are helpful for people who are unable to or simply cannot get enough calcium in their diets. Calcium supplements are available in various delivery methods, from liquid to tablets to soft chews. Should I take calcium supplements? And how much should I take? Substantial research has shown calcium supplements to be effective in maintaining or increasing bone density. The amount of calcium needed from a supplement depends on your age and dietary intake of calcium. Talk with your doctor, nurse practitioner, registered dietitian or other healthcare practitioner to determine what is right for you. According to the U. S. National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM), here are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)* for calcium: * RDAs are quantities of nutrients in the diet that are required to maintain good health. How much is too much calcium? The IOM has set a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), depending on your age, of between 2,000 Б 3,000 mg/dayБfrom all sources, including food, supplements and water. The UL is not a daily intake recommendation. It is considered the maximum level of daily intake that poses no known risk of adverse health effects for the general population. Going above the UL does not necessarily pose a safety risk; however, it is not recommended that you exceed the UL on a regular basis unless your healthcare practitioner has specifically directed you to do so. Are there safety concerns with calcium? There are no safety concerns for long-term calcium intake at or below the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). Calcification of blood vessels has been reported with very high calcium intake; however, the reports are based on individuals with already compromised kidney function. No link has been clearly established for the general population. Calcium is present in approximately 80 percent of kidney stones however the role of calcium and other nutrients, acting alone or together as risk factors for kidney stones, is not completely understood. There are various dietary and non-dietary factors that are associated with stone formation, making data difficult to interpret. Taking calcium supplements with meals should reduce the potential formation of kidney stones. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about how much calcium is right for you.
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