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Calcium is an essential mineral that primarily makes up the structure of bones and teeth, but is also necessary for proper muscle, nerve, and heart function; blood clotting; energy production and immune function. The most abundant mineral in the body, calcium can be obtained in the diet through milk products, dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli and tofu. There are also many food products available that are fortified with calcium, such as orange juice and soy milk.
The structure of bones and teeth is largely composed of calcium and is compromised with inadequate calcium consumption. Poor calcium intake may result in a debilitating condition called osteoporosis, leading to brittle, porous bones and mostly affecting post-menopausal women. It is important to note that men may also develop this disease. The efficiency of which the body absorbs calcium varies throughout the lifespan, being greatest at infancy and steadily declining after age 30.
Studies prove that increasing calcium intake is not only helpful in the prevention of osteoporosis, but also helps those that have developed the disease by minimizing bone loss and improving bone health.
Increasing calcium intake during corticosteroid therapy (used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis) may help improve bone mineral density, studies show.
Proper calcium intake may also help reduce the risk of colon cancer, and may help alleviate some symptoms of PMS. Some studies suggest that calcium may help improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of stroke in women; however, more research is needed.
In studies involving obese individuals, increased dietary intake of calcium is associated with decreased levels of body fat. It is not clear as to whether supplemental calcium offers the same benefit.
A special note about coral calcium: There have been many unfounded claims that coral calcium can miraculously cure diseases or radically improve health. In fact, coral calcium is nothing more than calcium carbonate, sometimes with added trace minerals. While coral calcium may have the same positive attributes and health benefits of other forms of calcium, it is by no means a miracle cure or quick answer to any health problem.
Calcium is available in the following forms: calcium citrate, calcium carbonate (coral calcium), calcium gluconate, calcium lactate, and calcium phosphate. Calcium is chemically unstable alone, and is best absorbed when combined with another element. It is for this reason that plain calcium not available in supplement form. Calcium absorption is maximized when combined with adequate intake of vitamin D.
Recommended Daily Doses for Women and Men
200 IU; 5 mcg
400 IU; 10 mcg
600 IU; 15 mcg
Calcium needs for post-menopausal women may be as high as 1500 mg daily. Consult your physician for specific guidelines.
Side Effects: Mild to non-existent with recommended use. Calcium carbonate may cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort. Do not take large doses of any calcium supplement for extended periods of time except under strict medical supervision. Taking calcium supplements on an empty stomach is linked to an increased risk of calcium-containing kidney stones; therefore it is recommended that calcium supplements be taken with food.
Indications: Pregnant and lactating women may have different calcium needs and should consult their ob/gyn for guidelines. Those with hypercalcemia, sarciodosis, hyperparathyroidism, hypervitaminosis D and cancer should not consume calcium supplements except under strict medical supervision. Calcium absorption may be affected when consumed in conjunction with caffeine, excess dietary fiber, or excess phosphates (especially in soft drinks). Consult your physician before consuming any calcium supplement if you are currently using any of the following medications: biphosphonates, H2 blockers, levothyroxine, proton pump inhibitors, quinolones and tetracyclines. Calcium may interfere with the absorption of other nutrients, and vice versa.