Got calcium?

Nutrition

Photo credit: Meal Makeover Moms, Flickr, Creative Commons

By pH health care professionals

“Get your calcium to build strong bones.”

It was one of the most successful food-marketing campaigns ever. Who could forget the beautiful celebrities and their milk mustaches in the “Got Milk?” ads? But it’s 2014, and many people are lactose intolerant and science is showing that the focus on calcium may have just been staggeringly wrong.  

So let’s start with the facts.

What is calcium?

Calcium is essential for life. It is a mineral that is found abundantly on the earth in rocks. As a result, soil that food grows in is likely to be calcium-rich, and many foods have calcium naturally. 99 percent of your total body calcium is in your skeleton, and your levels fluctuate throughout the day because your body is both breaking down old bone and building new bone. Your body puts a serious amount of energy into maintaining just the perfect tiny amount of calcium running around in the blood where it is essential for communication between cells.

How much calcium do you need?

The recommended daily allowance for adults aged 31-50 is 1,000 milligrams per day via food or supplements.

In people who don’t consume enough calcium, the body starts to grab calcium from the bones. This can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis, where bones are brittle and may break. This is the reason for the American Dairy Famers’ Association sponsoring all those milk advertisements.

But 1,000 milligrams of calcium is the amount found in just 100 grams of cheese. Most people get a lot more than that, because America has gotten a little calcium-happy. According to David Bishar of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, widespread calcium fortification in a variety of foods began in the 1980s. That explains why many of the most calcium-rich foods are cereals, candy bars, orange juice and cocoa mixes. You can use nutrition smartphone apps to estimate how much calcium you get per day.

Are there health conditions caused by having too much calcium?

Taking too much calcium per day upsets the body’s ability to keep all of the minerals in balance. The kidneys may become damaged due to the body’s efforts to urinate out the calcium. People with heart disease often have extra calcium deposits in their valves or their blood vessels, and doctors are trying to determine whether taking extra calcium orally increases the risk of heart disease. Too much calcium in the blood has also been associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Many of the problems from excess calcium can be eliminated or reduced by taking vitamin D, which is required for calcium balance. Vitamin D (at least 800 milligrams a day) should definitely be in your supplement regimen.

What if you are already taking a calcium supplement?

If you take calcium supplements, realize that you are not only taking it in pill form, but you are also getting calcium from a variety of foods throughout the day (read more about why it’s best to get calcium from your foods here). For example, the spinach, egg, cheese and milk in your morning quiche all contain calcium. So if you are already getting enough calcium in your foods, you may not need a supplement.

If you do need to supplement, choose your supplements carefully. Calcium carbonate isn’t the easiest thing to absorb. Antacids will stop its absorption, and low vitamin D will keep the intestine from soaking it up. Calcium citrate may be a better option. But do not exceed 2,000 milligrams per day in pill form.

So, what should you do now?

Calcium isn’t evil, but as you know, everything is best in moderation. Calculate your calcium intake, take a supplement if you’re on the low side of normal and never forget your D.

The experts at Proactive Health Labs can test your calcium levels and recommend quality supplements where needed.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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