There is more calcium in your body than any other mineral. Up until the age of 20 to 25, calcium continues to strengthen your bones. After that, calcium helps bone maintenance and slows down bone density loss, a natural part of the ageing process. Those with inadequate calcium intake before the age of 20 to 25 are at high risk for developing brittle bone disease or osteoporosis because calcium is drawn from the bones as a reserve.
Calcium also regulates muscle contraction like your heartbeat. It plays an additional role in normal blood coagulation, or clotting. Calcium helps in the release of hormones and enzymes and assists blood vessels in moving blood around the body.
People at Risk of Calcium Deficiency
The Menopause will cause bone loss due to decreases in oestrogen production which both increases bone resorption along with decreasing calcium absorption. During the first year of menopause, women will experience a decrease in bone mass of 3% to 5%.
Female Athletes and Amenorrheic Women
Amenorrhea is the condition when women of child bearing age stop menstrual periods, resulting from reduced estrogen levels, which reduce the calcium balance in the body. In very active women and athletes, menstrual irregularities, reduced bone-mineral density or irregular dietary patterns are shown to have an increased risk of stress fractures.
Lactose Intolerant Individuals
Lactose intolerant people have symptoms (bloating, flatulence and diarrhea) after consuming lactose, a natural sugar in milk. Those affected by lactose intolerance avoid dairy products, thereby limiting their calcium intake.
Vegans do not eat any animal products, and, therefore, avoid consuming dairy foods. Like individuals with lactose intolerance, they are limiting their calcium intake.
Foods Rich in Calcium
- Chinese cabbage
- Collard greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Dandelion leaves
- Many fortified breakfast cereals
- Many fortified drinks (including soy milk and a variety of fruit juices)
- Enriched grains
- Crushed eggshells (can be ground into a powder and added to foods and/or drinks)
- Blackstrap Molasses
- Dried Herbs
How Much Calcium Do You Need?
Children 1 to 3 years old: 700mg/day
Children 4 to 8 years old: 1,000mg/day
Children 9 to 18 years old: 1,300mg/day
Adults 19 to 50 years old: 1,000mg/day
Women 51 to 70 years old: 1,200mg/day
Men 51 to 70 years old: 1,000mg/day
Women and Men 71 and over: 1,200mg/day
Factors That Reduce Calcium in Bones
- High salt diet
- More than six caffeinated drinks per day
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Very low body weight
- Very high intakes of fiber
- Low levels of physical activity
- Low levels of vitamin D