Calcium is the mineral most likely to be deficient in the average diet. Calcium deficiency is a condition that is now more and more common. Only 21 percent of us are getting the recommended amount of calcium, according to federal government statistics. The result of insufficient amounts of calcium in our bodies over the long term may be thinning bones, termed osteoporosis, or the softening of bony tissue, called osteomalacia. The faulty metabolism of calcium during childhood may result in a condition called rickets. Recent research even points to calcium deficiency as being a possible cause of hypertension (high blood pressure) and of colon cancer. You’ve probably heard it many times before. You need calcium to prevent osteoporosis. But a lack of this mineral means more than weak bones. Key organs and bodily functions, like your heart and metabolism, need calcium to operate at their best.
Calcium also helps keep the weight off. Research suggests that if you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, you’re likely to be overweight. Of course, it’s possible to be overweight even if you do get plenty of calcium, but an adequate supply of Calcium appears to make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. The reason has to do with your body’s response to a calcium deficit. When you’re low, your body thinks you’re starving and enters emergency mode, releasing parathyroid hormone from four glands in your neck. This hormone stimulates your bones to release some calcium into your bloodstream. Your kidneys also deliver a dose of a hormone called calcitriol, a form of vitamin D, to increase your ability to absorb calcium. This helps keep the body in balance but is operating the body in an emergency mode, which over time, is very unhealthy.
Calcium also protects your heart. An adequate supply of calcium helps muscles, including your heart muscle, do their work of contracting and relaxing. Calcium also appears to help your nervous system regulate the level of pressure in your arteries.
Calcium protects against colon cancer. Adequate calcium intake may reduce your overall risk of colon cancer and suppress the growth of polyps that can lead to cancer. Researchers don’t know exactly why this happens, but it may be linked to the excess calcium that’s left in your intestines after your body absorbs what it needs. On its way through the colon, this reabsorbed calcium is believed to bind with cancer promoters, so they’re excreted together from the body. Studies have shown that both food sources of calcium and calcium supplements provide this protective effect. Calcium supplements should be taken in liquid form because liquid vitamins absorb 5 times better than pill form do.
Calcium maintains healthy teeth. Calcium protects your teeth in an indirect way. Your teeth themselves are relatively inert, meaning that the calcium they contain usually stays there. Your jawbone is a potential problem. Like other bones, it gradually surrenders calcium for needs elsewhere in your body if you’re not consuming enough. As your jaw weakens, your teeth loosen, creating gaps where bacteria can invade, triggering infection, inflammation, and bleeding. In fact, the condition of your teeth and gums can be a window to the overall health of your bones. Not surprisingly, the first signs of osteoporosis are sometimes found by your dentist.