CALCIUM


MILK - CALCIUM

 

 

IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose.  Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.

 

CALCIUM

Coach stood behind his desk.   Jake sat on the other side his gangly legs stretched out in front of him and his arms folded across his chest.  He looked sullenly at the desk waiting for Coach to start.

His glasses resting on the end of his nose Coach looked over the top of them  at Jake.  “Well,” he said, “we have to figure out how to improve your game or I’m afraid you’re off the team.  It’s as if your not even trying.  Your responses are slow.  You’re not moving fast enough.  What do you think is wrong Jake?”

“I don’t know Coach. I’m really trying.  I just don’t seem to have as much energy as I used to.  I put in lots and lots of practice but it doesn’t seem to help.  I even went to the doctor but he couldn’t find anything wrong with me.”

“O.K. I know we’ve been through this before but tell me again.  What do you eat.  Tell me exactly what you ate yesterday.”

Jake rolled his eyes.  He thought back to the day before.  “Really Coach I don’t see how what I eat has anything to do with my performance.”

“Tell me anyway.”

“Well, let me see.  For breakfast I had a coffee and a donut.   At lunch I had a couple of burgers, a coke and some fries.  Oh yeah.  I had a chocolate bar in the morning, too.  Then I had a sticky bun about four o’clock because I was getting hungry.  For dinner I had potatoes, fried chicken and some carrots and cake for dessert.”

“Seriously Jake?  Do you really want to stay on this team?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Then start eating better foods.”  He said in a rather irritated tone.  “Your diet is appalling.  For instance, yesterday, you didn’t have any calcium at all.”

“Calcium!  There’s nothing wrong with my bones Coach.”

“Jake, calcium isn’t just for your bones.  Calcium helps your brain to respond quickly.  It helps your muscles contract and relax easily and efficiently.  It helps pump blood through your body.  It helps our blood clot when we get a cut and most importantly it helps control the release of the hormones in our bodies.  Hormones like insulin that control the sugar in our blood so we get energy throughout our bodies.  Insulin which is being worked to death in your body trying to regulate your blood sugar levels with all the carbs you’re eating.”

“Wow, I had no idea!”

Coach then proceeded to recommend some diet changes which Jake made a real effort to work into his daily eating habits.  After a couple of weeks Jake’s performance had improved dramatically.

 

WHAT IS CALCIUM?

Calcuim (Ca) is the chemical element with the atomic number 20, a metal, whose ion Ca2+ signals many cellular processes in the body.

About 99% of the calcium, which is the most common element in our bodies, is found in our bones and teeth.  The final percentage point is housed in our blood and soft tissue.

 

Calcium levels in the blood and the fluid surrounding our cells are carefully controlled in a very narrow range  by ‘calcium sensing proteins, in the parathyroid gland.  Calcium is so vital to our survival that the body will actually demineralize our bones to get more calcium to make sure the levels are within the proper range if we don’t get enough of it in our diets.

 

 

THE JOURNEY

 

JOURNEY-FOR-CALCIUM

 

WHAT DOES CALCIUM DO FOR US?

Calcium is the mineral most responsible along with Vitamin D, for building strong dense bones throughout our lives.  It is the mineral that mineralizes our bones.

Apart from the calcium in our skeleton the calcium found in our blood and extracellular fluids performs several other very important tasks.

 

1. It assists in the release of neurotransmitters in our brains.

2. It is involved in signalling the contraction and relaxation of our muscles.

3. Our blood vessels constrict and relax because calcium plays a role in mediating this process.
4. We can pick things up and feel heat and cold because calcium plays a major role in nerve impulse transmission sending these sensations to our brains.
5. Calcium is involved in the release of hormones like insulin, thyroid hormone and estrogen.
6. When our blood clots calcium is involved in the activation of the 7 vitamin K
dependent clotting factors in the process called the ‘coagulation cascade.’ 
7. Calcium is used by our bodies to stabilize quit a few proteins including enzymes which optimizes their activities.

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH CALCIUM?

When we don’t get enough calcium in our diets several things will go wrong.

  1. We will eventually develop a disease called rickets.  Rickets is a bone disorder that softens and weakens our bones.
  2. We will have problems with our blood clotting.  Because calcium is involved in the activation of the 7 clotting factors if there is not enough of it our blood will not clot properly if we get a cut or abrasion.
  3. Osteoporosis is a disease that decreases the density of our bones. When we don’t get enough calcium in our diet the body leaches calcium from the bones to maintain the blood calcium levels.   Some are more at risk for osteoporosis than others.  These include  women over the age of 50, Caucasian and Asian women, petit and thin women, small boned and thin men, family history, prior history of fracture and bone breakage and some medications such as steroid medications. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/osteoporosis-menopause.
  4. There is a strong link between developing colorectal cancer and low calcium levels.  Calcium plays a protective role in preventing colorectal cancer.
  5. Low levels of calcium and high blood pressure have been correlated in observational studies over the last 20 years.

It is worth noting that research has found an association between diets high in animal protein and increased urinary calcium loss from bones.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute low blood calcium is usually not a sign of low calcium intake but “implies abnormal parathyroid function.”  The skeleton supplies a large backup supply of calcium for maintaining blood levels. This does not mean that if our blood calcium is in the normal range that we are getting enough calcium it just means that our parathyroid gland is working properly and it is making sure our blood levels are normal even if it means leaching it from our bones.

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH CALCIUM?

Calcium toxicity is rare.  Compared to other metals being poisoned by calcium ions or compounds is fairly difficult.

An abnormally high blood calcium level is called hypercalcemia.  Hypercalcemia does not result when calcium is consumed from food.  It is a concern, however, when too much is taken through supplementation including antacids.

Hypercalcemia

Mild hypercalcemia may not have any obvious symptoms or it may manifest itself through loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, dry mouth, thirst and frequent urination.  The more severe forms tend to produce, delirium, confusion, coma, renal failure and finally death if not treated.  It does take a large amount of supplementation over a few weeks or months to create this problem.  If you have stomach problems see your doctor and follow the instructions.  Do not self medicate by taking too much antacid along with your daily multivitamin.

Kidney Stones

It used to be thought that getting too much calcium led to the development of kidney stones, however, the story seems to be more involved than that.  Research shows that although high levels of excreted calcium in the urine and kidney stones are positively correlated, high levels of dietary calcium and kidney stones are not.  Eating a lot of foods with calcium in them does not cause kidney stones although calcium supplements have been shown to increase the occurance.

Calcium oxalate kidney stones occur when there is too much oxalic acid along with too much calcium in our kidneys and not enough liquid to dissolve them.  When the urine cannot dissolve them they spill over, undissolved, into the kidneys and form crystals. The thing with oxalic acid is that it tends to want to bond with metal ions.  Calcium is a metal ion so the oxalic acid bonds with the calcium ion to form crystals.  The crystals grow and form kidney stones.  Oxalic acid also bonds with other metal ions as well but 80% of kidney stones are formed from calcium oxalate.

 

The best way to prevent kidney stones is by drinking plenty of liquid and by not overeating.  It is also good to know that vitamin D acts as a transporter for calcium to get it from the kidneys into the bones, however, too much supplemental calcium along with too much supplemental vitamin D will create hypercalcemia. It is probably best to get calcium from your diet and take supplemental vitamin D.  If you are concerned about kidney stones speak to a registered nutritionist and your doctor.

This is a very simple description of how kidney stones are formed.  The research is ongoing and very involved.  There are many variables to the disease including genetics, diet, and supplementation.

 

WHERE DO WE GET CALCIUM?

CALCIUM-TABLE
Other foods containing high amounts of calcium are:

Seaweeds: kelp, wakame and dulse; oranges; figs; quinoa; amaranth; okra; turnip; and dandelion, buttermilk.

 

FACTOIDS

Diets high in animal protein are associated with increased urinary calcium which means the calcium is being excreted instead of being transported to the bones.

Contrary to the claims made by the manufacturers of supplements the absorption of calcium from food sources and from most common supplements including calcium based antacids is very similar.

Calcium supplements come in several forms. These include:  1. calcium carbonate (most common and should be taken with food)  2. coral calcium  3. calcium citrate (easily digested) 4. Calcium phosphate (easily absorbed and less expensive than calcium citrate)  5. calcium lactate  6. calcium gluconate, 7. calcium chelates are synthetic calcium compounds that act much like calcium carbonate.

Vitamin D is needed for optimal absorption of calcium.

Too much sodium in the diet increases urinary calcium leading to excessive amounts in the kidneys.

Calcium consumption is associated with a decrease in colorectal cancer.

 

REFERENCES:

LINUS PAULING INSTITUTE

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/calcium/

WIKIPEDIA

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium