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The Importance of Calcium
Adequate calcium intake is important starting as a baby through adulthood. As children grow, they need optimal calcium to build strong bones. Bone degradation can occur with age, and children who did not have enough calcium as a child can be at higher risks of fracture an osteoporosis later in life, especially women.
What are some good sources of Calcium? Milk can contain 300 mg in an 8 oz glass, Yogurt 250 mg per 6 oz, Orange Juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D can have 300 mg in 8 ounces. An orange by itself can have 60 mg of calcium. If your strict vegetarian- tofu with calcium can have 435 mg of calcium in ½ cup. Cheese- hard cheeses specifically can be a great source of calcium. 1 oz can have anywhere from 195-335 mg of calcium. ½ cup cottage cheese has about 130 mg. 8 ounces of Soy milk has 300 mg. Dark, leafy greens cooked can have 50-135 mg of calcium. 24 almonds has 70 mg. As you can see there are a lot of great sources of calcium.
Another important factor of calcium in the body, calcium serves in many cell functions. Calcium interacts with regulatory proteins to create contraction in muscles. It also helps nerves send transmissions at synapses. It regulates heart rhythm as well.
Calcium in the body is regulated by calcitonin and parathyroid hormone. Parathyroid hormone will increase intestinal absorption of calcium and decrease kidney excretion of calcium. If calcium is low, your parathyroid hormone will rise. When it elevates it will also stimulate osteoclasts which will break down bones to release calcium into the blood stream. Calcitonin is produced in the thyroid gland. Calcitonin will slow down bone breakdown of bone, in order to try to reduce calcium levels. Also, it will inhibit kidneys from absorbing as much calcium, promoting calcium excretion in the urine.
Teenagers should consume 1300 mg calcium per day. Adults I usually recommend maintaining 1000-1500 mg of calcium a day. And of course, don’t forget, that Vitamin D increases calcium absorption. You should at a minimum get 2000 IU Vitamin D daily.
There is some controversy of balance between too much calcium, and not enough. Too much calcium with the addition to an inflammatory state in the vasculature can lead to calcifications of arteries and atherosclerosis. Also too much calcium can lead to kidney stones, which if you have ever suffered from one of these- they are extremely painful. So there is a balance. Depending on your gender, genetics, age, and lifestyle you may need to modify your calcium consumption.