Calcium is the most common mineral in our body. It is very important for bones, nervous system and muscles, but it is essential for many basic cellular processes. For this reason calcium should be daily introduced in the body through alimentation, but are also available calcium supplements, useful especially in some conditions, as menopause, pregnancy and breast-feeding.
What is calcium?
Calcium is a mineral essential for cells functioning. It is present in our body mostly into bones, about 90%, and also into extracellular fluids. It has many different functions:
- It is used by cells as signal into second messengers systems
- It participates to muscle contraction.
- In interstitial fluids it stimulates the release of neurotransmitters into the synapses
- It allows the mechanism of excitation-contraction into skeletal muscles
- It cooperates in clotting
- It regulates the permeability to sodium ions of neurons
Calcium introduced through the diet is absorbed by intestinal cells, then transported through the blood vessels in ion form or bound to albumin or anions, as carbonates, phosphates, citrates. Calcium concentration into the body is regulated through three mechanisms:
- Intestinal absorption
- Renal excretion
- Release and uptake from bones
In this way the amount of calcium into the blood can be kept constant, avoiding disturbs linked to hypocalcemia or hypercalcemia. When the amount of calcium in the body decrease, can be necessary to assume specific supplements.
Calcium is very important for our body, so to prevent or treat possible deficiencies, it can be possible to take supplements. In fact there can be situations that lead to deficiencies of calcium, for example for people who can’t eat milk and dairy products, during pregnancy or breast-feeding and in menopause.
Calcium supplements can prevent and treat many situations, as:
- High cholesterol in blood
- Regulate blood pressure
- Helps to prevent obesity, type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
In supplements calcium is not found in his pure form, but with its salts, in particular calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Other forms of supplement are also produced, as calcium gluconate and lactate, but they contain less amounts of calcium.
Calcium and foods
Alimentation is very important to reach and maintain the correct amount of calcium in the body. This mineral is found in many foods and beverages, so it isn’t difficult to find aliments rich of calcium. These include:
- Agar agar
- Cereals and rice for breakfast
- Green-leaf vegetables
Calcium from foods can be absorbed only in small quantities, so it’s very important to follow some instructions to increase the level of absorbable calcium. For example it can be useful to assume foods rich of calcium, with foods rich of vitamin D, lactose and amino acids as lysine and arginine. Should not be associated instead foods high in fibers, oxalates and phosphates.
Today also lactose intolerant people can integrate calcium through alimentation, because are available many kinds of cheese and dairy products chemically deprived of almost all the lactose.
Calcium is essential for the health of bones, nervous system and metabolism. In fact it is present mostly into the bones, also into teeth, where it helps to maintain strong the tissue. Calcium deficiencies in fact can lead to osteoporosis, a major risk of fractures, caries. It is also essential for skeletal muscles, because it makes the contraction possible, so if calcium levels decrease, can occur muscle cramps and weakness.
Calcium is very important for nervous system, because it has two principal functions: it consents the release of neurotransmitters into the synapses, and it maintain below a certain level the permeability to sodium ions of neurons. This feature is very important, because if the amount of calcium decrease, the permeability to sodium increases, and so also the frequency of action potentials. This condition can lead to a particular sign of hypocalcemia, known as tetania, which occurs with lips parestesias and muscular spasm, as Trousseau sign, a particularly painful carpal spasm.
Calcium supplements can be very useful for many conditions, but their introit should never be in excess, because this can lead to many side effects. In fact, if hypocalcemia can be very dangerous, also severe hypercalcemia may cause many harmful conditions, as:
- Kidney stones
- Prostate desturb
Calcium supplements in excess can cause digestive problems, as nausea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. Other problems can be dried mouth and lack of appetite.