Importance of calcium intake
Calcium is a micronutrient that maintains bone and teeth health and performs many physiological activities. Homeostasis of calcium is necessary to perform these functions efficiently. Intake of calcium alone will not help to meet the demands. The dietary or supplemented calcium should be absorbed and assimilated to be biologically available for the body. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption. Therefore, adequate exposure to sunlight (for vitamin D) and calcium intake are vital to meet the calcium demands. Calcium deficiency or hypocalcemia can cause the following:
Osteopenia â€“ weak and thin bones
Osteoporosis â€“ a decrease in bone density leading to spongy, porous, weak, fragile, and brittle bones more susceptible for breaks or fractures
Osteomalacia â€“ very soft bones due to lack of serum calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D resulting in painful bones and joints, weak muscles, weak, fragile bones, and difficulty walking
Dental changes â€“ tooth decay and caries, gum decay, and weak tooth root
Improper clotting mechanism
Impacts nerve impulse conduction
Poor functioning of the thyroid
Muscle weakness, cramps, and fatigue
Dry skin, brittle nails, and hair loss
Alterations in the brain
A high intake of calcium or improper calcium metabolism elevates blood calcium level or hypercalcemia, which can cause the following:
Weak bones and muscles
Calcium deposits, clots, or plaque formation in blood vessels
Increased calcification in bones and joints and cranium
Improper heart functioning leading to palpitations, arrhythmias, and fainting.
Abnormal nerve impulse conduction
Overactive thyroid and parathyroid glands
Digestive abnormalities like nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, and constipation
Impaired brain functioning leading to confusion, lethargy, fatigue, or depression
Need for estimating calcium intake
Proper maintenance of calcium homeostasis and estimating calcium intake becomes a prime necessity to avoid hypocalcemia or hypercalcemic conditions. Calcium homeostasis is necessary for normal calcium flow to and from the bones. The body maintains adequate levels of calcium by negative feedback loop mechanism through the following ways:
Hormonal regulation by calcitonin, calcitriol (derived from Vitamin D), and parathyroid hormone
Calcium storage in bones
Calcium absorption and reabsorption by intestines
Calcium excretion by kidneys
Need for estimating intake are the follows:
To correlate estimated data with standard recommendations to evaluate any inadequacy, deficiency, or overload.
To rule out reasons for unacceptable levels even with adequate intake. Postmenopausal or lactating women can still have calcium deficiency with adequate intake and require an extra intake of calcium.
To prepare personal diet plans with various calcium sources.
To correlate estimated data of each individual in a community to prepare community nutritional programs. For example, evaluating calcium deficiency among preschool children in a community.
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