All of us, not just growing children, need calcium for bone health. Bones act like calcium banks where we deposit calcium to build strong bones. Depositing enough calcium during childhood and adolescence helps prevent osteoporosis, a disease which results in weakened bones that break easily. Prevention is the key since there is no cure for osteoporosis.
The daily loss of calcium through the skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces must be replaced through the diet. Otherwise, the body takes calcium out of the bones, weakening them. Lack of calcium can also cause muscle cramps, joint pains or athritis, tooth decay and high blood pressure. Calcium is essential for regulating heartbeat, blood clotting, transmitting messages in the brain, and stimulating hormones secretions and enzyme activity.
Osteoporosis: The Silent Bone Thief
Insufficient calcium intake ups the risk of osteoporosis. A "silent" disease, osteoporosis progresses without symptons, until a fracture occurs, most often in the hip, spine and wrist. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes with concern that 20 percent of hip fractures are fatal and 50 percent result in disability.
Women are more prone to osteoporosis than men. But as men are living longer, osteoporosis will become an increasing problem for them. Osteoporosis tends to run in families. Researchers from Melbourne have shown that the daughters of women with hip fractures tend to have lower bone density than other women.
How much Calcium Do I need?
Research suggests that if your calcium intake is below average, your blood pressure may raise. Pregnant women needs additional calcium to build their babies' bones. For breastfeeding mothers with low bone density to begin with, bone loss that occurs with lactation may put them at risk of fracture. Higher calcium intakes change the ratios of some bile salts and this may have a protective effect against bowel cancer. The amount of calcium needed by our bodies depend on our life stage. The highest calcium requirement happens during adolescence, pregnancy, lactation and in adults (both men and women) above 51 years of age.
Where do I get my Calcium Sources
It is best to obtain calcium from the foods we eat. Meat, eggs and dairy products may be high in calcium but they are also high in animal protein, which experts believe, is the main culprit of calcium loss. One example is cow's milk. Protein in cow's milk is called casein while protein in human breast milk is called lactalbumin. Nursing infants can digest up to 90% of lactalbumin. But the body is usually only able to digest about 50% of casein. In addition, as commercial cow's milk is heat-treated to kill bacteria, the heat also damages natural enzymes that help us to absorb casein. Undigested casein paves the way for allergic reactions in young children and studies have shown that cow's milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in kids.
Animal products are not necessarily the best sources of calcium. Calcium helps us to prevent osteoporosis. Many consider cow's milk to be the only source of calcium. But statistics show that osteoporosis flourishes in countries that drink a lot of cow's milk. From as early as the 19th century, scientists have warned that a diet rich in animal protein will cause calcium to be lost through urine, causing calcium deficiency. Therefore as cow's milk is high in animal protein, increasing your intake of cow's milk will not necessarily replenish calcium. It can actually increase risk of osteoporosis.
Plant foods are excellent protein and calcium powerhouses. Beans and legumes are very rich in easy-to-digest plant proteins. Soybeans are one example. Weight for weight, soybeans are said to yield twice the protein of meat, four times that of eggs and 12 times that of milk. Soybeans are also low in fat and high in fiber. Soymilk makes a delicious source of calcium. Green vegetables such as broccoli also offer high-quality calcium that is easily absorbed by the body.
Pearl contains 88-90% of calcium carbonate. Thus its high calcium content makes it an ideal food supplement for health. It is also potent in stimulating bone marrow cells and new bone formation.
Excessive calcium intake occurs usually with pills and not from natural sources because supplemental calcium has higher amounts of elemental calcium. High calcium intakes can lead to constipation, gas and may inhibit the absorption of iron and zinc from food.
Nutritional Immunology's take on Calcium
Nutritional Immunology encourages the consumption of natural, wholesome plant foods for strong bones that will serve you well throughout a long, active and healthy life.