Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth which gives them strength and rigidity. It is also needed for normal nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes.
A deficiency in calcium can lead to poor bone and joint health, tooth decay, numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps and abnormal heart rhythms.
All the calcium that you ingest through food is not absorbed by the body. The calcium-phosphorus ratio influences the absorption of calcium.
Factors which increase the calcium absorption-
· Vitamin D
· Soluble fiber inulin
· Acidic environment
· Low fat, high protein intake
Factors which decrease the calcium absorption-
· Low vitamin D
· High fat intake
· Presence of phytates, oxalates in fruits and vegetables
Sources of calcium-
· Dietary sources
Calcium is mostly found in low fat dairy products (cheese, milk and yogurt).But if you are a vegan or lactose-intolerant you can get your daily dose of calcium from-
· Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, watercress, turnip and collard greens)
· Chinese cabbage
· Fish – salmons, sardines
· Nuts and seeds – almonds, sesame, chia seeds
· Dried figs
· Instant oatmeal
· Orange juice
· Soy milk
There are various calcium preparations - organic salts (Tricalcium citrate, Calcium lactate, Calcium lactate gluconate, Calcium gluconate) and inorganic salts (Calcium chloride, Calcium carbonate, Calcium phosphate) - available in the market.
Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are the most commonly available forms of calcium.
People often wonder – ‘What is the best type of calcium supplement to take?’
· 40% elemental calcium
· Least expensive calcium salt
· Is better absorbed and well tolerated when taken with a meal
· 21% of elemental calcium
· Highly soluble at low pH. It is better absorbed than calcium carbonate in patients with less stomach acid
· Unlike calcium carbonate which has to be taken with or soon after a meal, calcium citrate can be taken at any time.
But is it worth taking calcium supplements?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends getting your calcium from foods, before you turn to supplements.
Dr. Trupti Shirole