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Calcium in the body - what it is, properties, what it's in, products

Calcium in the body affects many aspects of health.

Ludwig Jelonek - AuthorAuthorLudwig Jelonek
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Ludwik Jelonek is the author of more than 2,500 texts published on leading portals. His content has found its way into services such as Ostrovit and Kobieta Onet. At Natu.Care, Ludwik educates people in the most important area of life - health.

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Kacper Nihalani - Reviewed byReviewed byKacper Nihalani
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Calcium in the body - what it is, properties, what it's in, products
29 April, 2024
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It makes up more than 99% of the structure of your bones and teeth, and is the most abundant mineral in your body. I guess that's enough to get to know it better? I hope so, because calcium influences numerous processes, and adequate levels are crucial to your overall health.

We have put together the most important information about it together with the doctor, Kacper Nihalani.

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From this article you will learn:

  • What is calcium and what is its symbol.
  • What is calcium?
  • What functions are affected by calcium and how much to take.
  • .
  • What calcium is in and how calcium deficiency and excess are manifested.
  • What is calcium?
  • How is serum calcium tested and when to use supplementation.
  • .

See also:

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What is calcium?

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Calcium is an essential mineral for the human body, used to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. It is important for the proper functioning of the nervous system, muscle contractions and blood clotting processesand.

It is the most common mineral in the human body - accounting for about 1-2% of human mass. Most (about 99%) of its deposits are stored in bones and teeth .

What symbol and formula does calcium have?

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Calcium is a chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. In the periodic table it belongs to the alkaline earth group of metals.

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Calcium - properties and effects

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Calcium is responsible for a number of key tasks in the body - it is a component of bones and teeth, influences metabolic processes, and also supports the functioning of the nervous system or blood clotting.

How does calcium function?

What functions does calcium have in the body?

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Builds bones and teeth

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More than 99% of the total calcium in the human body is stored in the bones and teeth. This mineral influences their structure, gives them strength, and provides rigidity. Collagen fibres form the framework of the bones, and minerals such as calcium are deposited there, building a tough, resilient structureand.

When blood calcium levels are low, the body can start to use up the resources stored in the bones, which will lead to a weakening of these elements. In contrast, normal levels of this component make the building and regeneration of bones and teeth go on without too much troubleand.

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Study

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A review of 43 studies from 2022, involving a total of 7382 participants, examined the effects of calcium supplementation on bone mineral density bone and bone mineral content in people under 35 years of age. The research paper suggests, that calcium supplementation was associated with an increase in both indices particularly in the neck of the femurand.

Promotes the functioning of the nervous system

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Calcium is involved in the transmission of impulses between nerve cells. It acts as a kind of 'courier' - its ions penetrate the nerve cell upon receiving an impulse, leading to the release of a neurotransmitter, the compound responsible for transmitting the signal to the next celland.

When calcium penetrates a nerve cell, it changes its electrical charge, leading to the sending of a nerve impulse. Without adequate levels of calcium in the body, the nerve impulse can be weakened, potentially affecting the proper function of the nervous system .

Responsible for muscle contractions

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Calcium is involved in the transmission of signals from the nervous system to the muscles, which enables controlled contractions. When the nerve cell sends a signal to the muscle cell (in response to a movement command), calcium is released from the muscle cell's internal stores. This increase activates proteins that enable the muscle fibres to contract.

After the contraction is over, calcium is quickly 'deposited back' into the stores, allowing the muscle to relaxand.

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Study

A review of 18 studies involving 3140 participants was conducted in 2022. The research paper tested the effect of increased calcium intake on lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The mineral was found to be effective, especially in young people. Although the reduction in systolic blood pressure was small (2 mmHg), the experts reported that it was associated with an approximately 10% lower risk of stroke and a 7% lower mortality from coronary heart diseaseand.

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Influences the blood clotting process

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Calcium is important for many of the enzymes involved in the blood clotting process. It is the ions of this mineral that are essential for the proper functioning of the so-called clotting cascade, where a series of enzymatic reactions trigger the formation of a clotand.

When a blood vessel is injured, clot formation begins immediately to prevent further bleeding. Calcium aids this action by speeding up the formation of fibrin fibres - the main component of the clot, which effectively plugs the injured blood vessel and helps to stop bleedingand.

The following is an example of this.

A lack of adequate calcium in the body leads to impaired clotting, which can result in an increased risk of bleeding or bruising.

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Promotes hormone secretion

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Calcium plays a significant role in the production and secretion of hormones. To explain this, it should be noted, that there is a complex interaction between blood calcium levels and the hormones that regulate these levels, such as parathormone, insulin and calcitoninand.

Parathormone is a hormone produced by the parathyroid glands, which release it when blood calcium levels are reduced. The main functions of parathormone are to increase the absorption of calcium from the gut and kidneys, and to stimulate the release of calcium from the bones into the bloodand.

Calcium also affects the secretion of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that is essential for the metabolism of glucose in the blood.

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Daily calcium requirements

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The daily calcium requirement depends on age. It also changes for women who are pregnant, when it is particularly important to ensure adequate nutrient concentrations in the body. How much calcium to take in each day?

Age

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Daily calcium requirementsand

0-6 months

200 mg

7-11 months

260 mg

1-3 years

700 mg

4-9 years

1000 mg

10-18 years

1300 mg

19-65 years old men

1000 mg

19-50 years old women

1000 mg

> 50 year old women

1200 mg

> 65 years old men

1200 mg

Pregnant women should take 1300 mg of calcium per day. However, during breastfeeding the requirement for this mineral does not increase - it remains at 1000 mg.

What calcium is in - sources in the diet

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Products rich in calcium include seeds such as sesame, poppy or chia seeds, cheeses (such as Parmesan or Brie), natural yoghurt, sardines, salmon, beans or lentils. Dietary sources of calcium also include almonds, leafy vegetables (e.g. cabbage, spinach, kale), rhubarb, tofu or soya and cow's milkand.

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The best way to provide calcium is to get it from a variety of foods. Include in your daily menu, for example:

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  • a glass of vegetable drink + two tablespoons of poppy seeds for oatmeal,
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  • a slice of tofu with vegetables for lunch,
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  • yogurt with seeds and nuts for dessert,
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Products rich in calcium - table

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Product

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Calcium content per 100 gand

Mac

1440 mg

Sesame

975 mg

Parmesan

853 mg

Chia seeds

631 mg

Sardines

382 mg

Salmon

283 mg

Almonds

269 mg

Tofu

200 mg

Fasola

142 mg

Cabbage

141 mg

Natural yoghurt

121 mg

What vegetables are rich in calcium?

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Vegetables rich in calcium include kale, spinach, broccoli, radishes, swede, carrots, white cabbage, asparagus, beetroot or chicory. On a plant-based diet, calcium will also provide you with celery, parsley, leek, pumpkin, chives and legumes such as beans and chickpeas.

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What is calcium in besides dairy products?

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In addition to dairy products, calcium is present in many other products. Leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are particularly rich in this mineral. You can also find it in fish, especially sardines and salmon. Nuts, seeds (almonds, sesame or chia) and beans or chickpeas are also good sources of calcium.

Bioavailability of calcium

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Plant products contain a significant amount of substances that limit the absorption of calcium in the body (oxalates and phytates). They bind to this mineral and form insoluble salts. Therefore, plant products have a low bioavailability and lower calcium content per standard serving than dairy productsand.

Dairy products, on the other hand, have a bioavailability of around 30%, so if you see on the product label that the product contains 200 mg/100 g, only 70% of this will be absorbed and used by the body .

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Bioavailability of calcium in common foods

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Product

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% absorbed calciumand

Strings

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20-30%

Broccoli

40%

Nuts and seeds

20%

Spinach

5%

Earnings

30%

Products enriched with calcium

30%

Shake it up!

Calcium fortified plant products (e.g. plant-based drinks) containing a high amount of this mineral per serving (around 300 mg in a glass) have a high bioavailability. But there is one catch - shake the packet vigorously before using the beverage, as up to 40% of the added calcium can settle to the bottom of the carton or bottleand.

Calcium - deficiency

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Approximately 3.5 billion people worldwide are at risk of calcium deficiency. This condition can result from a number of factors, including poor diet, health conditions that prevent calcium absorption or insufficient exposure to sunlight, which is responsible for the synthesis of vitamin D3.

Cause of calcium deficiencyand:

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  • Diet low in calcium. People on a dairy-free diet are particularly prone to calcium deficiency, as dairy products are the best source of calcium - they contain lactose and a good calcium/phosphorus ratio. People on a plant-based diet may have a similar problem 
  • .
  • Assimilation problems; Some health conditions, such as gastrointestinal diseases, can hinder the absorption of calcium from food, leading to calcium deficiency.
  • Lactation. During lactation, there is an increase in calcium loss from the bones, but this condition passes after the breastfeeding period ends. It is best for a woman to ensure adequate calcium intake while still pregnant.
  • .
  • Lack of sufficient sun exposure. The body produces vitamin D3 when exposed to sunlight, which is necessary for calcium absorption. Therefore, insufficient amounts of this vitamin can result in calcium deficiency.
  • Puberty. Calcium is an essential building material for bones and teeth. Adolescence is a period of intensive skeletal development. This is when the need for calcium increases significantly and calcium deficiencies can result in rickets.
  • .
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Study

A study of 122 healthy women (a minimum of three years after their menopause) tested the effect of calcium supplementation on bone mineral density. The average intake of this mineral was 750 mg in the patients and was increased to 1,000 mg per day. The scientific work lasted 2 years and the result showed a 43% increase in bone density index in the calcium supplement groupand.

Symptoms of calcium deficiency

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Symptoms of calcium deficiency can include, but are not limited to, muscle weakness, heart problems or fatigue. What are the specific symptoms of this condition?

Fatigue

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Chronic fatigue can be one of the symptoms of calcium deficiency. This mineral is needed for proper muscle function, so a deficiency can lead to feelings of weakness and constant fatigueand.

Poor oral health

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Calcium deficiency can affect oral health in several ways. It can lead to dental problems such as tooth decay and increased tooth brittleness. In addition, it can also affect the gums, resulting in inflammation or bleedingand.

Muscle weakness

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Calcium is essential for muscle function, so a deficiency can cause muscle failure, weakness and even cramps or seizures. These symptoms often have a negative impact on daily activity and functionand.

Heart problems

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Because calcium is essential for the proper functioning of the heart muscle, a deficiency can result in serious heart problems. Like skeletal muscles, the heart can also experience the effects of calcium deficiency in the form of irregular rhythm or arrhythmiaand.

Cognitive problems

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Calcium deficiency can affect brain function, leading to problems with memory and concentration. Calcium is essential for the proper conduction of nerve impulses in the brain, so low levels of calcium, can interfere with these processesand.

Neural system disorders

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Calcium deficiency can result in nervous system disorders such as numbness and tingling in the hands, feet or face. This is because the mineral plays a key role in nerve conductionand.

What flushes calcium out of the body?

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Calcium from the body can be flushed out due to various factors. Often it is due to unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle. Excessive consumption of caffeine and salt can lead to increased excretion of calcium by the kidneys, which will result in a calcium deficiency.

Calcium deficiency can be caused by the following factors.

Phosphoric acid-containing products, such as some fizzy drinks, can also contribute to calcium loss, as phosphorus competes with calcium for space in the bonesand.

Another factor that affects calcium concentrations in the body is excessive intake of protein. When proteins are metabolised, acidic compounds are formed which must be neutralised in the body. Calcium is often used in this process, leading to calcium depletionand.

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In addition, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can also cause calcium loss. Alcohol inhibits the body's ability to absorb the mineral, while smoking contributes to increased excretion from the body .

How to supplement calcium in the body

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You can supplement calcium in the body mainly with the right diet and supplementation. Introducing calcium-rich foods into your diet, such as milk and other dairy products, green vegetables (broccoli, spinach), nuts, seeds, fish (sardines, salmon), or even some citrus fruits, can significantly increase the levels of this mineral in your bodyand.

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Another method is calcium supplementation. Various preparations with this ingredient are available on the market. However, it is worth remembering that its excessive intake can also be unhealthy. Therefore, it is best to decide on supplementation after consulting your doctor or dieticianand.

Don't forget about adequate sun exposure too, which stimulates vitamin D production. It is essential for the body to absorb calcium properly, so sufficient levels are key to maintaining adequate calcium concentrations. Regular walks or outdoor activities can be very helpful in this aspectand.

Supplement consciously

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If you are considering supplementation, choose well absorbed forms of calcium: citrate, lactate, gluconate, diglycinate. Also, do not combine calcium at the same time with iron and meals rich in fat, fibre, oxalates and phytates - they interfere with the absorption of this mineraland.

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Excess calcium

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Excess calcium - a medical condition known as hypercalcaemia - occurs when calcium levels in the blood are higher than standard. This can be due to both natural causes and the side effects of certain medications.

Cause of excess calciumand:

  • Hypoparathyroidism. It is a disease that causes excessive activity of the parathyroid glands, which produce a hormone that regulates calcium levels. And too much of this hormone leads to elevated calcium concentrations in the blood.
  • Over-supplementation. Calcium overdose is often seen in people who take calcium supplements containing this ingredient for long periods of time.
  • Cancer. Certain types of cancer, such as lung, breast or kidney cancer, can increase calcium levels.
  • .
  • Taking medications.Some medications (e.g. diuretics) can lead to increased blood calcium levels.
  • Some genetic disorders. Diseases such as tuberculosis or hyperthyroidism can cause excess calcium.
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Sometimes hypercalcaemia is a symptom that enables the diagnosis of a previously undetected malignancy. However, this is rare - more often it is the cancer that leads to excess calcium.
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Kacper Nihalani

Kacper Nihalani doctor

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What are the symptoms of excess calcium?

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Overabundance of calcium leads to a variety of symptoms, which can be both subtle, minor and severe, affecting quality of life. The specific symptoms depend on the level of calcium in the blood and the duration of the condition. What are the most common symptoms?

  • Fatigue and weakness,
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  • depression,
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  • insomnia,
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  • frequent urination,
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  • increased thirst,
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  • digestive problems,
  • digestive disorders,
  • digestive problems,
  • digestive disorders,
  • digestion
  • disorders of heart function,
  • .

Serum calcium - testing

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Serum calcium testing is a laboratory test to assess the level of calcium in the blood. It is most often ordered when a patient has symptoms that may indicate abnormal calcium levels, such as fatigue, weakness, abdominal pain or frequent urination.

Sometimes this test is also used as part of routine follow-up diagnosis in people with certain medical conditions, such as certain cancers, or in those taking medications that affect calcium levels in the body.

The test involves taking a blood sample, usually from the ulnar vein. The sample is then analysed in a laboratory and the results are usually available after a few days.

Total calcium is a very important part of the test.

Total calcium, ionised calcium and corrected calcium - what are the differences?

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Total calcium, ionised calcium and corrected calcium are different types of blood tests that check the concentration of a particular substance in the body. How do the different solutions differ?"

  • Total calcium. Indicates the total amount of calcium that is contained in the patient's blood serum. It consists of ionised calcium (50%), bound to acidic residues (10%) and proteins (approximately 40%).
  • Ionised calcium. It is one of the fractions of total calcium that is most biologically active. It is also called free calcium, and its concentration in the body works well, for example, in people who have muscle cramps or heart rhythm disorders.
  • Corrected calcium. Calculates a total calcium value that has been corrected, taking into account a theoretical blood albumin level of 40 g/l. This provides a universal result that is easy to compare to other patients.
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The corrected calcium result is the most clinically useful in most cases.
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Kacper Nihalani.

Kacper Nihalani doctor

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What is the blood calcium standard?

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The norm for blood calcium in an adult is 2.12-2.62 mmol/l (8.5-10.5 mg/dl). However, bear in mind that the specific values may vary depending on the laboratory where you carry out the test. Furthermore, the results should always be interpreted by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.

Calcium supplementation

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Calcium supplementation is often recommended for people who may struggle to get enough of this nutrient with their diet. This is particularly true for those on a plant-based or dairy-free diet, seniors, menopausal women, those suffering from eating disorders or who have specialised diets, and those with lactose intolerance.

Supplementation of calcium is a good idea.

Remember, however, that the decision to take calcium supplementation should always be preceded by a consultation with a doctor or dietician.

In what forms is calcium available?

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Calcium is available in many different forms, such as tablets, liquids or powder. These forms also vary in their degree of absorption.

  • Tablets. Tablets are the most popular form of calcium supplementation, due to their ease of dosage and storage. They can contain different forms of the mineral, such as citrates or carbonated calcium, and are often fortified with vitamin D to facilitate the absorption of this nutrient in the diet.
  • Liquids. Liquid forms of calcium have a higher bioavailability compared to tablets. They are usually available as drinking liquids or drops.
  • .
  • Powders. Calcium powders are an excellent alternative for people who have difficulty swallowing tablets. You can easily add the powder to meals or drinks for flexibility in dosing.

What calcium is best absorbed?

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One of the best absorbed types of calcium is citrate. Studies suggest that it is absorbed better than carbonate, plus it can be taken on an empty stomach. Furthermore, calcium citrate can be supplemented by people who often have problems with heartburn.

How long can calcium be taken?

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There is no set limit to how long calcium supplementation can last, but prolonged use of high doses can lead to adverse side effects such as kidney stonesand. Therefore, it is best to perform blood tests at the start of supplementation and repeat them a few months later to see if a deficiency is still present.

Calcium for children - is it worth it?

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Calcium is extremely important for the proper development and growth of children, as it plays a key role in building strong bones and teeth. In addition, it is important for muscle function, blood clotting and the transmission of nerve impulses. Children at the age of intensive growth, especially during puberty, have a relatively high demand for this element.

Nevertheless, the decision to supplement calcium in children should always be preceded by consultation with a doctor or nutritionist. Although supplements with this ingredient are generally safe, excessive doses can lead to adverse side effects.

The following is an example.

In most cases, calcium requirements can be met with a balanced diet. Rich sources of this nutrient are dairy products, green leafy vegetables, beans, sesame seeds or almonds. If for some reason your diet is deficient in calcium, it is then worth considering calcium supplementation, but always after consulting your doctor.

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Calcium in pregnancy

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Calcium is an indispensable nutrient for mothers-to-be - it is involved in the formation of the baby's bones and teeth, as well as helping to transmit nerve signals and ensuring that the mother's muscle contractions are normal.

Calcium in pregnancy is an essential nutrient for mothers-to-be.

Nevertheless, the decision to supplement calcium during pregnancy should always be taken after consulting a doctor. This is because an excess can lead to serious side effects such as kidney stones or heart problems.

Pregnancy calcium supplementation should always be taken after consultation with a doctor.

What's more, many women are able to meet their calcium requirements through a balanced diet, rich in dairy products, fish, green leafy vegetables or seeds.

See also:

Summary

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  • Calcium is a mineral essential for maintaining bone and tooth health.
  • Calcium is the most important mineral for maintaining bone and tooth health.
  • Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body, accounting for 1-2% of the human body weight.
  • Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body.
  • Daily calcium requirements depend on age and stage of life, as well as gender.
  • .
  • Calcium is present in a wide range of foods, including seeds, dairy products, some fish, beans, lentils, as well as almonds and leafy vegetables.
  • Calcium deficiency is a major concern.
  • Calcium deficiency can lead to muscle weakness, heart problems, tooth damage and fatigue.
  • .
  • Excess calcium, although rare, can result in health problems such as fatigue, depression, heart problems and muscle weakness.
  • .
  • Blood calcium concentration can be tested in a variety of ways, including measuring total calcium, ionised calcium, or corrected calcium.
  • Calcium supplementation is recommended for people who may struggle to get enough of this nutrient from their diet, including those on a plant-based or dairy-free diet, seniors, menopausal women, people with eating disorders or with specialised diets.

FAQ

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. How much calcium does milk contain?.

Milk is a good source of calcium in the diet. There is an average of 120 mg of calcium in 100 ml of cow's milk, which is about 12% of the recommended daily intake for an adult. The calcium in milk is also easily absorbed, thanks to the presence of other ingredients such as vitamin D and protein.

. What foods are rich in calcium and vitamin D?.

Calcium and vitamin D are found in many foods. Rich sources of calcium are milk, cottage cheese, cheese, yoghurt or fish such as sardines and salmon. Vitamin D, which is necessary for the absorption of calcium, is found in oily marine fish (salmon, mackerel), liver, egg yolk and milk.

Vitamin D synthesis is also aided by exposure to the sun, so regular exposure to fresh air is recommended.

. Is calcium a metal?.

Yes, calcium is a metal, belonging to the alkaline earth metal group. It is located in the second group of the periodic table of elements. In its pure state, it is a silvery, fairly soft metal, but in nature it is most often found in the form of compounds, such as calcium carbonate.

. How to take calcium and magnesium?.

Calcium and magnesium are best taken along with a balanced diet. Rich sources of calcium are milk and milk products, green leafy vegetables or nuts. Magnesium, on the other hand, is found in whole grains, cereals, almonds and cocoa.

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. What leaches calcium from bones?.

Unhealthy eating habits and an unfavourable lifestyle can contribute to the loss of calcium from bones. Excess fibre, alcohol, caffeine and sodium accelerate the excretion of this mineral from the body.

Also, prolonged sitting and lack of regular physical activity inhibit calcium absorption. Low levels of vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption, also adversely affect bone health.

Provided that the body's vitamin D intake is low, it has a negative effect on bone health.

. Magnesium and calcium - together or separately?.

Magnesium and calcium should be taken separately. Ilona Krzak, MSc in pharmacy, states, that these minerals are mutually exclusive. We therefore advise against simultaneous supplementation of both nutrients.

. How does calcium work?.

Calcium is a key element for the body, involved in many vital processes. It controls muscle contractility and the function of cell membranes, regulates nerve conduction, and influences blood clotting.

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Sources

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. See all.

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Liu, Y., Le, S., Liu, Y., Jiang, H., Ruan, B., Huang, Y., Ao, X., Shi, X., Fu, X., & Wang, S. (2022). The effect of calcium supplementation in people under 35 years old: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. eLife11, e79002. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.79002

Mangano, K. M., Walsh, S. J., Insogna, K. L., Kenny, A. M., & Kerstetter, J. E. (2011). Calcium intake in the United States from dietary and supplemental sources across adult age groups: New estimates from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006. Journal of the American Dietetic Association111(5), 687-695. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2011.02.014

Recommendations for Calcium-A Nutrient of Concern | Dairy Nutrition. (2021, July 1). https://dairynutrition.ca/en/nutrients-milk-products/calcium/recommendations-calcium-nutrient-concern

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Shkembi, B., & Huppertz, T. (2021). Calcium Absorption from Food Products: Food Matrix Effects. Nutrients14(1), 180. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14010180

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