Calcium | Benefits, Deficiency & Calcium Sources
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Calcium | Benefits, Deficiency & Calcium Sources

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Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan

Written by Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan on Aug 9, 2023 and fact checked by R&D Specialist, Gizem Çebi.

Welcome to the ultimate guide to calcium, an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining your overall wellness. In this article, we'll explore what calcium is, how it functions in your body, the recommended daily intake, its benefits, and why ensuring a sufficient daily calcium intake is vital. Plus, we'll provide you with a list of excellent sources to help you meet your calcium needs naturally.

What is Calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that your body needs for various functions, such as building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, facilitating muscle contractions, enabling blood clotting, and supporting nerve transmission. It's a vital nutrient that contributes to your overall health and well-being.

What does calcium do?

Calcium plays a pivotal role in maintaining bone health throughout your life. It provides structural support to your skeleton, making bones strong and resilient. Additionally, calcium helps muscles contract, ensuring smooth movement and proper muscle function. It also aids in blood clotting, which is essential for healing wounds, and assists in transmitting nerve signals effectively.

What is the recommended daily calcium requirement?

Adequate calcium intake is crucial across all age groups. RDAs vary according to biological sex and age, but the minimum amount for all groups starts at 1,000 mg daily. 

Here is a breakdown of the RDAs for adults and elderly individuals:

  • Adults aged 50 and below: 1,000 mg
  • Adults aged 51 -70 (male): 1,000 mg
  • Adults aged 51 -70 (female): 1,200 mg

A high-dose intake of calcium is recommended for individuals who are: 

  • In menopause or have already experienced menopause
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Experiencing a cessation of the menstrual cycle due to excessive exercise or anorexia nervosa

What are the benefits of calcium?

Calcium offers a wide range of benefits that contribute to your overall health:

Strong bones and teeth: Calcium is a key component of bones and teeth and helps to maintain their strength and structure.

Muscle function: Adequate calcium intake supports proper muscle contractions, which are essential for every movement.

Cardiovascular health: Calcium plays a role in maintaining a regular heartbeat and supporting healthy blood pressure levels.

Nervous system: Calcium is involved in transmitting nerve signals, ensuring efficient communication between nerve cells.

Blood clotting: This mineral is crucial for blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding when you're injured.

Why is daily calcium intake important?

Getting enough calcium each day is vital to ensure your body functions optimally. Inadequate calcium intake can lead to health issues like osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures. By meeting your daily calcium needs, you help maintain bone density and reduce the likelihood of fractures as you age.

What are good sources of calcium?

Here are some excellent sources of calcium to include in your diet:

Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium. Opt for low-fat or non-dairy alternatives if you're lactose intolerant.

Leafy greens: Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach provide calcium along with other essential nutrients.

Tofu: This soy-based product is often fortified with calcium, making it a great option for vegans and vegetarians.

Fish with edible bones: Canned fish such as sardines and salmon offer a calcium boost from their edible bones.

Fortified foods: Many foods like orange juice and cereals are fortified with calcium, enhancing your intake.

What are the best vegan calcium sources?

There are many plant-based food sources that are high in calcium, including leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and fortified plant-based milks and juices. Here are some of the best vegan sources of calcium:

Leafy green vegetables: Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and collard greens are some of the best vegan sources of calcium. One cup of cooked collard greens contains about 266 milligrams of calcium or about 27% of the daily recommended intake. One cup of cooked kale contains about 179 milligrams of calcium or about 18% of the daily recommended intake. One cup of cooked broccoli contains about 62 milligrams of calcium or about 6% of the daily recommended intake.

Nuts and seeds: They are also excellent sources of calcium for vegans. Almonds and sesame seeds are particularly high in calcium. One ounce of almonds contains about 75 milligrams of calcium or about 8% of the daily recommended intake. One tablespoon of sesame seeds contains about 88 milligrams of calcium or about 9% of the daily recommended intake.

Tofu: It is made with calcium sulfate and is also a good source of calcium for vegans. Four ounces of tofu made with calcium sulfate contains about 253 milligrams of calcium or about 26% of the daily recommended intake.

Legumes: Foods such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also good sources of calcium. One cup of cooked white beans contains about 161 milligrams of calcium or about 16% of the daily recommended intake. One cup of cooked lentils contains about 63 milligrams of calcium or about 6% of the daily recommended intake. One cup of cooked chickpeas contains about 80 milligrams of calcium or about 8% of the daily recommended intake.

It is important to ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your diet to maintain optimal health. If you are concerned about your calcium intake, speak to a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for advice on how to ensure that you are getting enough calcium.

What foods don't have calcium?

While there are many foods that are high in calcium, there are also some foods that are generally low in calcium. Here are some examples of foods that are generally low in calcium:

Fruits: Most fruits are low in calcium, with the exception of some types of dried fruit that have been fortified with calcium.

Grains: Most grains, such as rice and pasta, are low in calcium. However, some types of bread and cereals may be fortified with calcium.

Oils and fats: Oils and fats, such as vegetable oil and butter, are generally low in calcium.

Meats: Meats are generally low in calcium, with the exception of some types of fish that are high in calcium, such as sardines and salmon.

Processed foods: Many processed foods, such as snack foods, are low in calcium.

What is calcium deficiency?

Calcium deficiency occurs when your body doesn't get enough calcium, an essential mineral for healthy bones, teeth, and various bodily functions. Without adequate calcium intake, your body may struggle to perform optimally, potentially leading to health issues.

What are the symptoms of calcium deficiency?

When your body lacks sufficient calcium, it might start sending signals through various symptoms. Keep an eye out for:

Muscle Cramps: Calcium deficiency can cause muscle cramps and spasms, which can be quite uncomfortable.

Brittle Nails: Weak and brittle nails might indicate a lack of calcium in your system.

Tingling Sensations: You might experience tingling or numbness in your fingers, toes, or around your mouth.

Weakened Teeth: Calcium deficiency can affect tooth enamel, leading to dental problems.

Fatigue and Weakness: Feeling unusually tired and weak? Inadequate calcium intake could be a contributing factor.

What causes calcium deficiency?

Several factors can lead to calcium deficiency. Understanding these causes can help you make informed choices to help prevent it. Some common causes include:

Inadequate dietary intake: Not consuming enough calcium-rich foods can contribute to deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption. Insufficient vitamin D levels can hinder calcium absorption even if you're consuming enough calcium.

Certain medical conditions: Conditions such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease can impact your body's ability to absorb calcium.

Medication interference: Certain medications may interfere with calcium absorption or increase calcium excretion.

Age and hormonal changes: As you age, your body's calcium needs and absorption efficiency can change.

The effects of calcium deficiency on bone structure

Calcium deficiency can have a significant impact on your bone health and structure. Your bones act as a calcium reservoir, so when your body lacks calcium, it may start leaching calcium from your bones. This can lead to:

Osteoporosis: A condition where bones become weak and brittle, increasing the risk of fractures.

Bone Deformities: Inadequate calcium during growth years can result in improper bone development and deformities.

Bone Loss: Calcium deficiency can accelerate bone loss, further contributing to osteoporosis and other bone-related issues.

To prevent these potential effects, it's crucial to ensure that you are meeting your calcium needs through a balanced diet, supplements if necessary, and lifestyle choices that support bone health.

How to test calcium at home?

Curious about your calcium levels? While a comprehensive assessment should involve a healthcare professional, there are a few simple ways you can get an idea of your calcium status right at home.

Urine test strips: Did you know that your urine's calcium level can offer insights into your calcium balance? Purchase a test strip from your local pharmacy and test your first-morning urine. 

Consider a blood test: While not exactly a home test, scheduling a blood test with your healthcare provider can provide accurate information about your calcium levels. This can be especially helpful if you suspect a deficiency or if you want to monitor your levels more closely.

Tapping into technology: There are smartphone apps available that can help you track your daily calcium intake and even estimate your calcium balance based on your dietary choices. They're user-friendly and can provide valuable information about your calcium habits.

Remember, these home methods provide general insights, but for a comprehensive understanding of your calcium status, consult a healthcare professional.

What is a calcium deficiency test?

A calcium deficiency test generally involves measuring the levels of calcium in your blood. This test helps determine whether your body is getting enough calcium to support essential functions. 

Of course, other tests, such as a urine test, can also be used. These tests are:

24-H urine test

This test measures the level of calcium in the urine. If too much calcium is in the body, excess calcium is excreted through the urine. If less, it's the opposite. For this test, all urine made within 24 hours must be collected for laboratory analysis.

Calcium C-test

Another method used to measure calcium in urine is the calcium C-test. In this test, calcium is measured by an automatic chemistry analyzer using the o-cresolphthalein complex. The prepared solution is diluted with distilled water, and the same chemical analyzer measures urine creatinine due to the standard Jaffe kinetic reaction using picric acid.

Low calcium levels can lead to certain issues, including weakened bones and teeth. If you're experiencing symptoms like muscle cramps, brittle nails, or fatigue, consult a healthcare professional who can recommend a blood test to assess your calcium levels.

How much calcium is too much?

While calcium is essential, consuming excessive amounts can lead to health problems. The recommended daily intake of calcium varies based on age and gender, but generally, adults should aim for around 1000 to 1300 milligrams per day. Consuming too much calcium, especially through supplements, can increase the risk of kidney stones and interfere with the absorption of other important minerals like iron and zinc.

It's important to strike a balance and prioritize obtaining calcium from a diverse range of sources, such as dairy products, fortified plant-based alternatives, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Remember that moderation is key, and consulting with a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes is always advisable.

What are the symptoms of taking too much calcium?

While calcium is crucial for your health, excessive intake can lead to hypercalcemia, a condition where your blood calcium levels are too high. This might cause symptoms such as:

Digestive Distress: Nausea, vomiting, constipation, and abdominal pain could indicate elevated calcium levels.

Bone Pain: Paradoxically, excess calcium might lead to bone pain and fractures.

Kidney Stones: Higher calcium levels increase the risk of kidney stone formation.

Fatigue and Weakness: Feeling tired or weak without a clear reason can be linked to hypercalcemia.

Healthy adults can regularly remove excess calcium from the body. However, long-term excessive intake, or insufficient excretion due to any problem can cause high levels.

What causes high calcium levels?

Several factors can contribute to elevated calcium levels:

Overactive Parathyroid: The parathyroid glands regulate calcium. Overactivity can boost calcium levels.

Medications: Some medications can interfere with calcium balance, impacting levels.

Vitamin D: While vital for calcium absorption, excessive vitamin D can lead to hypercalcemia.

Medical Conditions: Conditions like hyperthyroidism and sarcoidosis can disrupt calcium regulation.

What should be done if calcium is too high?

If you find that your calcium levels are elevated, it's important to take proactive steps to bring them back to a healthy range. Here are some recommended actions to consider:

Hydration: Staying well-hydrated can assist in flushing out excess calcium from your system.

Medication Review: If you're taking any medications that might be contributing to high calcium levels, discuss potential adjustments with your healthcare provider.

Treat Underlying Conditions: If an underlying medical condition is causing the high calcium levels, addressing that condition is crucial.

Dietary Modifications: Your healthcare provider might recommend dietary changes to help regulate your calcium levels.

Follow Medical Advice: Adhere to the recommendations provided by your healthcare professional for a comprehensive and effective approach.

Remember, while it's essential to take these steps, always seek guidance from a healthcare expert to ensure that your actions are appropriate for your individual circumstances. With the right approach and support, you can effectively manage high calcium levels and promote your overall well-being.

Can high calcium levels be reversed?

Yes. The approach to high calcium levels depends on the underlying cause. With appropriate management, many individuals can effectively control their calcium levels and prevent complications. It's essential to work closely with your healthcare provider, follow their recommendations, and make any necessary lifestyle adjustments to support your overall wellness.

Remember, your body's balance is key. While calcium is vital, too much can lead to problems. Stay informed, prioritize your health, and partner with professionals to ensure your calcium levels remain within a healthy range.

Why is it important to monitor your calcium intake? 

Certain national nutrition surveys indicate that most people fail to get the necessary calcium they need to build and maintain strong and healthy bones. 

This is of particular concern because there are no early-stage symptoms of low calcium intake. After all, your body will first try to restore its calcium levels by drawing on calcium found in your bones. As a result, there is an excess loss of calcium in the bones when there is insufficient calcium intake for an extended period of time. 

Calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth, optimal muscle and nerve movements, and proper brain-body communication, making it critical to be mindful of your calcium intake. Thankfully, Vivoo offers you a way of checking on that in a stress-free way!

Calcium in urine - evaluation of calcium intake with urine

Urine calcium levels are a reflection on  your dietary calcium intake. The adult human body stores about 1-1.5 kg that is mainly in the skeleton. A small percentage of your body’s calcium stores is found in extracellular fluid and can be used as ionized calcium, a process tightly regulated by hormones. 

Calcium found in the foods you eat is absorbed through the lining of your small intestine into the bloodstream. Once this calcium is in the bloodstream, your body uses it to build bones, among other functions. Your body then passes any excess calcium into the gastrointestinal and urinary system, where the calcium will be eliminated as feces and urine. In addition, a small percentage of this is also released via deposits in the bones and sweat.

It is expected that the urine samples retrieved over a 24-hour period from a healthy adult will contain between 50-250 mg of calcium, meaning that 20% of dietary calcium intake is normally excreted through urine. If your urine contains anything less than this amount, it's highly possible that you are not consuming enough calcium through your diet. 

What do you measure with Vivoo?

The Vivoo Calcium Parameter checks the ratio of calcium/creatinine in urine because it's strongly correlated with urine calcium excretion over a twenty-four hour period.

Creatinine is a byproduct of muscle metabolism and is normally released into the urine at a constant rate. Because of this, creatinine levels in urine is one way of assessing the concentration of your urine and is thus one useful approach for measuring random calcium levels in urine samples. 

You can check your calcium intake with Vivoo. It does not make a diagnosis but, it allows you to take precautions against potential problems and support your general wellness by checking your intake amount.

What types of calcium dietary supplements are available?

Calcium is crucial for overall health, and while it's found naturally in foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and fish, supplements can provide an extra boost. Here's a breakdown of the different types of calcium supplements:

Calcium Carbonate: This common form of calcium supplement is best taken with food, as it requires stomach acid for proper absorption. It's cost-effective and contains the highest amount of elemental calcium (40%).

Calcium Citrate: This option doesn't rely on stomach acid for absorption, making it a suitable choice for those with low stomach acid or digestive issues. It's also a good option for older adults.

Calcium Phosphate: This lesser-known type of calcium supplement is often used in antacids. It contains less elemental calcium compared to calcium carbonate, so higher doses may be needed.

Calcium Lactate: This form is more easily absorbed by the body than calcium carbonate and can be taken on an empty stomach. However, it provides a lower amount of elemental calcium (13%).

The extent to which calcium is absorbed from supplements, just like from foods, is influenced not only by the calcium source but also by the total quantity of elemental calcium taken in a single instance. As this quantity rises, the absorption percentage decreases. The highest absorption from supplements occurs when doses are 500 mg or below. To illustrate, approximately 36% of a 300 mg calcium dose and 28% of a 1,000 mg dose are absorbed by the body.

Choosing the right calcium supplement for you

When selecting a calcium supplement, consider factors like your dietary restrictions, existing health conditions, and any medications you may be taking. Remember these tips:

Consult your doctor: Before adding any supplement to your routine, especially if you have health concerns or are taking medications, consult your healthcare provider.

Dosage matters: Pay attention to the elemental calcium content, as this is the actual amount of calcium your body absorbs.

Pair with Vitamin D: Calcium works hand-in-hand with vitamin D for absorption. Vitamin D deficiency can disturb this. Ensure you're getting enough sunlight or consider a vitamin D supplement.

Read labels: Look for supplements with the USP or NSF label, indicating quality and accuracy in ingredients.

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img author
Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan

Written by Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan on Aug 9, 2023 and fact checked by R&D Specialist, Gizem Çebi.

Table of Contents

What is a Calcium Deficiency Test?

How Much Calcium is Too Much?

What Are The Symptoms Of Taking Too Much Calcium?

What Causes High Calcium Levels?

What Should be Done if Calcium is Too High?

Can High Calcium Levels be Reversed?

Why Is It Important to Monitor Your Calcium Intake? 

Calcium in Urine - Evaluation of Calcium Intake with Urine

What Do You Measure with Vivoo?

What Types of Calcium Dietary Supplements are Available?

Choosing the Right Calcium Supplement for YouWhat is Calcium?

What Does Calcium Do?

What Is The Recommended Daily Calcium Requirement?

What Are The Benefits Of Calcium?

Why Is Daily Calcium Intake Important?

What Are Good Sources Of Calcium?

What Are The Best Vegan Calcium Sources? 

What Foods Don't Have Calcium? 

What is Calcium Deficiency?

What Are the Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency?

What Causes Calcium Deficiency?

The Effects of Calcium Deficiency on Bone Structure

How to Test Calcium at Home?

What is a Calcium Deficiency Test?

How Much Calcium is Too Much?

What Are The Symptoms Of Taking Too Much Calcium?

What Causes High Calcium Levels?

What Should be Done if Calcium is Too High?

Can High Calcium Levels be Reversed?

Why Is It Important to Monitor Your Calcium Intake? 

Calcium in Urine - Evaluation of Calcium Intake with Urine

What Do You Measure with Vivoo?

What Types of Calcium Dietary Supplements are Available?

Choosing the Right Calcium Supplement for You

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

What Foods Should Be Avoided When Calcium Is High?

When your calcium levels are elevated, it's important to be mindful of your diet to ensure a healthy balance. Excessive calcium intake can lead to issues such as kidney stones and constipation. However, the solution here is not to give up calcium-containing foods completely. After reaching the amount you need daily, it would be appropriate to reduce the amount of consumption. Here are some foods to consider limiting when calcium is high:

Dairy overload: While dairy products such as milk are excellent sources of calcium, consuming too much can tip the scale. Opt for moderate portions of cheese and yogurt.

Supplement caution: Overdoing calcium supplements can contribute to excessive levels. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

Canned fish: Certain types of fish like sardines and salmon are rich in calcium, but canned varieties often contain edible bones that can boost calcium intake. Consume fish in moderation.

Fortified foods: Pay attention to the calcium content of fortified foods like cereals and plant-based milk alternatives. They can add up quickly if consumed excessively.

Can Stress Raise Calcium Levels?

Stress is a common companion in our fast-paced lives, and it turns out that it can impact our calcium levels too. When stress becomes chronic, it may lead to higher levels of cortisol – a hormone that can influence calcium balance (9). Elevated cortisol levels can cause the body to release more calcium from bones, potentially affecting their strength. While short-term stress isn't likely to cause a significant calcium imbalance, managing stress is important for overall wellness.

Can High Calcium Make You Tired?

Feeling fatigued despite getting enough sleep? High calcium levels might be playing a role. Elevated calcium levels can interfere with magnesium absorption, which in turn, can lead to symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, and even sleep disturbances. To maintain optimal energy levels:

Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to support proper calcium and magnesium balance.

Magnesium-rich foods: Include magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. Magnesium can counteract the effects of excess calcium.

Physical activity: Engage in regular physical activity, as exercise can help regulate calcium levels and improve overall energy (12).

By striking a balance between calcium and magnesium intake, you can promote vitality and reduce feelings of tiredness.

Article Review History

  • References
  • Updates
  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/ 
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/key-minerals-to-help-control-blood-pressure 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2246942/ 
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/calcium-deficiency-disease#symptoms 
  5. https://www.uclahealth.org/medical-services/surgery/endocrine-surgery/patient-resources/patient-education/endocrine-surgery-encyclopedia/calcium-test#:~:text=Serum%20calcium%20is%20a%20blood,%E2%80%93%20serum%2C%20and%20Ca%2B%2B
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypercalcemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355523#:~:text=Hypercalcemia%20is%20a%20condition%20in,your%20heart%20and%20brain%20work
  7. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007477.htm 
  8. https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/choosing-a-calcium-supplement 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2911474/ 
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1211491/#:~:text=The%20increase%20in%20the%20luminal,chloride%20was%20replaced%20by%20urea
  11. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/calcium-supplements/faq-20058238 
  12. https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/10.1142/S0219519405001461 
  13. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=calcium_urine 
  14. Choi, I. S., Jung, E. S., Choi, Y. E., Cho, Y. K., Yang, E. M., & Kim, C. J. (2013). Random urinary calcium/creatinine ratio for screening hypercalciuria in children with hematuria. Annals of laboratory medicine, 33(6), 401–405. https://doi.org/10.3343/alm.2013.33.6.401.

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