What Does Calcium Do To Bones

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Calcium is a mineral your body needs to build and maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Almost all calcium in the body is stored in bones and teeth, giving them structure and hardness.

What Does Calcium Do To Bones

Calcium is an essential element that plays numerous biological functions in the human body, of which one of the most important is skeleton mineralization. Bone is a mineralized connective tissue in which calcium represents the major component, conferring bone strength and structure. Proper dietary calcium intake is important for bone development and metabolism, and its requirement can vary throughout life. The mineral composition of drinking water is becoming relevant in the modulation of calcium homeostasis. In fact, calcium present in mineral drinking waters is an important quantitative source of calcium intake. This, together with its excellent bioavailability, contributes to the maintenance of the bone health. This article aims to examine studies that assessed the bioavailability of the calcium contained in calcium-rich mineral waters and their impact on bone health, including original data collected in a recent study in humans.

Bone illustration with periosteum, cortical and trabecular bone labeled by Pbroks13 on Wikipedia.

Bone is a complex cellular tissue that contains, by weight, approximately 70% mineral and 30% organic constituents. The mineral phase consists of about 95% hydroxyapatite, Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2, a highly organized crystal of calcium and phosphorous, and other ions (such as sodium, magnesium, fluoride, and strontium). The organic phase (osteoid) is composed of 98% collagen fibers, and by a ground substance formed by glycoproteins and proteoglycans.

Bone is a mineralized connective tissue that exhibits two different types of bone: (1) Cortical bone, which is the compact, thick, and dense layer that forms the outer surface of most bone and the shafts of the long bones; (2) cancellous or trabecular bone, which has the aspect of a sponge and it is found at the end of long bones and within flat bones and vertebrae.

Calcium

Your bones contain 99.5% of the total calcium in your body. Many people take in enough calcium from the foods they eat.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Reduced-fat or skim milk
  • Low-fat plain or fruit yogurt
  • Swiss cheese
  • Calcium-fortified juice
  • Calcium-fortified cereal
  • Tofu

It is important to note that many women of all ages in the US do not get enough calcium in their diet. The vast majority of endocrinologists encourage their female patients to take supplemental calcium daily.

One of the easiest and most effective methods of increasing your calcium intake is to take an oral calcium supplement. There are several over-the-counter forms of oral calcium that can help maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about what option is best for you.

Calcium and Vitamin D Recommendations
Children & Adolescents
Calcium (Daily)
Vitamin D (Daily)
1 through 3 years
500 mg
400 IU**
4 through 8 years
800 mg
400 IU**
9 through 18 years
1,300 mg
400 IU**
Adult Women & Men
Calcium (Daily)
Vitamin D (Daily)
19 through 49 years
1,000 mg
400-800 IU
50 years and over
1,200 mg
800-1000 IU
Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
Calcium (Daily)
Vitamin D (Daily)
18 years and under
1,300 mg
400-800 IU
19 years and over
1,000 mg
400-800 IU

**NOF does not have specific vitamin D recommendations for these age groups. These are the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (2).

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D—either through your diet or a supplement—is an essential part of any osteoporosis prevention plan. Talk to your doctor about how best to include these nutrients into your daily routine.

What is Calcium and What Does it Do?

Cheese, milk, fish, almonds, and other bone-healthy foods

A calcium-rich diet (including dairy, nuts, leafy greens and fish) helps to build and protect your bones.

Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth.

Every day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces. Our bodies cannot produce its own calcium. That’s why it’s important to get enough calcium from the food we eat. When we don’t get the calcium our body needs, it is taken from our bones. This is fine once in a while, but if it happens too often, bones get weak and easier to break.

Too many Americans fall short of getting the amount of calcium they need every day and that can lead to bone loss, low bone density and even broken bones.

The amount of calcium you need every day depends on your age and sex.

WOMEN
Age 50 & younger 1,000 mg* daily
Age 51 & older 1,200 mg* daily
MEN
Age 70 & younger 1,000 mg* daily
Age 71 & older 1,200 mg* daily

So, calcium is important and we need a heck of a lot of it. Most adults (age 19-50) need 1,000 milligrams a day and women over 50 need 1,200 milligrams per day. Unfortunately, most women only get about 750 milligrams daily and a chronic calcium deficit can lead to osteoporosis.

Milk is an excellent source of calcium, with an average of 300 milligrams of calcium per 8-ounce glass. But if you don’t like dairy products or can’t digest them well, there are other super sources out there. Here are seven foods that have more calcium than a glass of milk.

Sources of Calcium

Calcium-Rich Food Sources

Food is the best source of calcium. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are high in calcium. Certain green vegetables and other foods contain calcium in smaller amounts. Some juices, breakfast foods, soymilk, cereals, snacks, breads and bottled water have added calcium. If you drink soymilk or another liquid that is fortified with calcium, be sure to shake the container well as calcium can settle to the bottom.

A simple way to add calcium to many foods is to add a single tablespoon of nonfat powdered milk, which contains about 50 mg of calcium. It is easy to add a few tablespoons to almost any recipe.

Reading Food Labels – How Much Calcium Am I Getting?

To determine how much calcium is in a particular food, check the nutrition facts panel for the daily value (DV). Food labels list calcium as a percentage of the DV. This amount is based on 1,000 mg of calcium per day. For example:

  • 30% DV of calcium equals 300 mg of calcium.
  • 20% DV of calcium equals 200 mg of calcium.
  • 15% DV of calcium equals 150 mg of calcium.

Calcium Supplements

The amount of calcium you need from a supplement depends on how much you get from food. Try to get the daily amount recommended from food and only supplement as needed to make up any shortfall. In general, you shouldn’t take supplements that you don’t need. If you get enough calcium from foods, don’t take a supplement. There is no added benefit to taking more calcium than you need. Doing so may even carry some risks.

Calcium Supplements

The amount of calcium you need from a supplement depends on how much you get from food. Try to get the daily amount recommended from food and only supplement as needed to make up any shortfall. In general, you shouldn’t take supplements that you don’t need. If you get enough calcium from foods, don’t take a supplement. There is no added benefit to taking more calcium than you need. Doing so may even carry some risks.

Calcium’s Role in the Body

Calcium is a mineral that is needed for various functions in the body, including blood clotting and muscle contraction.  Almost all of the calcium in your body is found in your bones and teeth.  But after age 20-25, bone density declines, so calcium is essential in slowing down the loss of bone density. Your body is unable to produce new calcium, so it’s important that you consume calcium in your diet because when calcium is in short supply, your body will take it from your bones to function. Additionally, inadequate calcium intake significantly contributes to the development of osteoporosis.

Calcium supplements are available without a prescription in a wide range of preparations (including chewable and liquid) and in different amounts. The best supplement is the one that meets your needs for convenience, cost, and availability. When choosing a supplement, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose brand-name supplements with proven reliability. Look for labels that state “purified” or have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol. The “USP Verified Mark” on the supplement label means that the USP has tested and found the calcium supplement to meet its standards for purity and quality.
  • Read the product label carefully to determine the amount of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of calcium in the supplement, as well as how many doses or pills you have to take. When reading the label, pay close attention to the “amount per serving” and “serving size.”
  • Calcium is absorbed best when taken in amounts of 500 – 600 mg or less. This is the case for both foods and supplements. Try to get your calcium-rich foods and/or supplements in small amounts throughout the day, preferably with a meal. While it’s not recommended, taking your calcium all at once is better than not taking it at all.
  • Take (most) calcium supplements with food. Eating food produces stomach acid that helps your body absorb most calcium supplements. The one exception to the rule is calcium citrate, which can absorb well when taken with or without food.
  • When starting a new calcium supplement, start with a smaller amount to better tolerate it. When switching supplements, try starting with 200-300 mg every day for a week, and drink an extra 6-8 ounces of water with it. Then gradually add more calcium each week.
  • Side effects from calcium supplements, such as gas or constipation may occur. If increasing fluids in your diet does not solve the problem, try another type or brand of calcium. It may require trial and error to find the right supplement for you, but fortunately there are many choices.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about possible interactions between prescription or over-the-counter medications and calcium supplements.

Calcium supplements are available without a prescription in a wide range of preparations (including chewable and liquid) and in different amounts. The best supplement is the one that meets your needs for convenience, cost, and availability. When choosing a supplement, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose brand-name supplements with proven reliability. Look for labels that state “purified” or have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol. The “USP Verified Mark” on the supplement label means that the USP has tested and found the calcium supplement to meet its standards for purity and quality.
  • Read the product label carefully to determine the amount of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of calcium in the supplement, as well as how many doses or pills you have to take. When reading the label, pay close attention to the “amount per serving” and “serving size.”
  • Calcium is absorbed best when taken in amounts of 500 – 600 mg or less. This is the case for both foods and supplements. Try to get your calcium-rich foods and/or supplements in small amounts throughout the day, preferably with a meal. While it’s not recommended, taking your calcium all at once is better than not taking it at all.
  • Take (most) calcium supplements with food. Eating food produces stomach acid that helps your body absorb most calcium supplements. The one exception to the rule is calcium citrate, which can absorb well when taken with or without food.
  • When starting a new calcium supplement, start with a smaller amount to better tolerate it. When switching supplements, try starting with 200-300 mg every day for a week, and drink an extra 6-8 ounces of water with it. Then gradually add more calcium each week.
  • Side effects from calcium supplements, such as gas or constipation may occur. If increasing fluids in your diet does not solve the problem, try another type or brand of calcium. It may require trial and error to find the right supplement for you, but fortunately there are many choices.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about possible interactions between prescription or over-the-counter medications and calcium supplements.

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