Calcium - For Strong Bones - Information on Absorption, Benefits, Deficiency & Food Sources
The human body requires more calcium than any other mineral. The adult human body contains about 1000 to 1200 g of calcium. At least 99% of the calcium is found in the bones and teeth, giving them strength and rigidity. The remaining 1%, which is in the blood, muscles, and nerves, plays an important role in regulating physiological functions.
Calcium is a white, malleable, metallic element. In the body it is found in various combinations such as calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, calcium fluoride, and calcium sulphate. Large quantities of fat, oxalic acid, and phytic acid in the food can prevent proper calcium absorption.
|Recommended Daily Allowance - Calcium|
|Lactating Women||1200 mg|
|Preganant Women||1200 mg|
Absorption of Calcium
Not all the calcium that is present if foods is available to the body. The absorption and retention of this mineral depends on its intake as well as other factors. Normally, approximately 20 to 40 percent of this mineral is absorbed from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. The amounts absorbed, however, may be greatly increased during periods of rapid growth when mineral needs are high. Absorption of calcium also depends on the healthy condition of the stomach and intestines and adequate supply of vitamins B12, D, C and phosphorus.
It is estimated that the daily excretion of calcium through the urine varies between 100-300 mg in men and 100-250 mg in women. This quantity, however, varies and the excretion becomes less during calcium deficiency.
Calcium Benefits - Functions in the Body
Calcium is essential for the proper development of bones and teeth. It is necessary for the normal action of the heart and all muscle activity. It aids the clotting process of the blood and stimulates enzymes in the digestive process.
Calcium is required for proper foetal growth, for normal health of the mother during pregnancy and lactation, and for the secretion of breast milk. It speeds all healing processes and controls the conduction mechanism in the nerve tissues so that messages travel fast enough for the functioning of the body. It is essential for proper ultisation of phosphorus and vitamins A, C and D.
Calcium Sources - Rich food in calcium
- Milk and milk products are the most important sources of calcium in readily available form. One litre of cow's milk contains 0.12 % of calcium.
- Green vegetables such as cassia, amaranth, turnip greens, cauliflower, carrots, and leaves of colocasia, drumsticks, fenugreek, and radishes are excellent sources of calcium. Other good sources are mustard seeds, dried coconut, and almonds. Finger millet is the cheapest natural source of calcium, containing about 0.3 to 0.36%. Fish too is a rich source of calcium.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
Calcium-deficient people look pale and listless, get tired, and become lazy. Deficiency of calcium causes changes in the bones and muscles. They are more sensitive to cold weather. They become nervous and suffer from mental derangements. Sweating around the head even during cold weather is the most obvious symptom of calcium deficiency in all ages. Deficiency of calcium may cause porous and fragile bones, tooth decay, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, insomnia, and irritability.
Calcium Deficiency in Children
Children who are born to calcium-deficient mothers generally suffer from calcium deficiency. In such children calcium deficiency becomes more prominent if there is no supply of calcium, proteins, minerals, and vitamins in the form of whole milk, fresh fruits, and vegetables. These children fail to grow or develop healthy and strong bones. They lack appetite and if fed forcibly, may bring out all the food and milk. They suffer from late and detective teething, and are prone to having emaciated necks and enlarged heads. Deficiency of calcium lowers the body resistance and these children become an easy prey to respiratory and intestinal infections.
Deficiency of calcium in young girls causes late puberty, irregular menstruation, excessive bleeding with crampy pain, anaemia, and lowered state of body resistance against infections. In case of an inadequate supply of calcium during pregnancy, the development of the foetus continues by drawing the reserve calcium from the bones, but the mother usually suffers from a difficult labour. Bleeding, lack of breast milk, poor concentration of the mind, a prolonged lying-in period - these are all comon due to calcium deficiency after childbirth.