Tuesday, 12 July 2011

CALCIUM "What" is the big deal?

When we think of bone, calcium is the first thing which comes to mind. For healthy bones, we are ready to take any substance which is calcium rich and the most convenient form of calcium used today is pills. Pregnant women, children, women at menopause, adults above forty years of age are common target for calcium pills.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It interacts with phosphorus to form calcium phosphate which forms bone and teeth. Calcium is essential in intra and extracellular fluid exchange, blood clotting, metabolic functions and maintaining a regular heartbeat.

As an important element for body function, it is stored in a very usable form, bone (99%) and balance (1%) in the blood serum. The 1% calcium in blood stream is critical to maintain ionic balance; hence any deficit will be made good by drawing from bone.

The bone, like other body parts is a tissue which constantly needs maintenance or remodeling. The process of replacement of old bone with new bone deposition continues for a life time with little change in shape. After the age of 35 and beyond, remodeling rate gradually declines. And after 40+ the rate of bone loss overtakes the deposition and the adult can lose up to 10% of bone mass every decade. This is equivalent to a daily loss of 15 to 30 mg of calcium.

Can a calcium pill substitute this LOSS?

Bone resorption (old bone removal) is a fairly rapid process. However bone deposition is more complex and slow process. It follows a certain biochemical and physical sequence of events in the presence of hormones, enzymes etc. for mineralization process to begin.

Calcium Metabolism

Very small amounts of calcium can be absorbed throughout the small intestine.  It needs assistance to cross through cellular membranes. Only a specific variant of vitamin D, synthesized in the skin by UV radiation can help in this process.

After calcium is metabolized, it should be effectively deposited on the bone. However, this is a further complex process. It is triggered by regular and specific movement of body parts, which enhances bone remodeling.

Calcium Sources

Best three sources of calcium are food, food and food!

Food items, which are good source of calcium, are as below:

  1. Dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese)

  2. Leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach)

  3. Fruits (orange)

  4. Beans (tofu, peanuts, peas, black beans)

  5. Fish (salmon, sardines)

Hence, for the body to effectively utilize calcium for bone strengthening three steps are involved:

Step 1.

Eat from its natural source. Natural sources of calcium have a high bioavailability and hence the quantity absorbed in the body is high. At least 3 servings of dairy products along with other calcium rich foods are needed to make up the recommended dosage of 1000-1200mg a day.

Step 2.

Expose yourself to natural sunlight - 10 minutes of early morning sunlight (between 7:00-8:00 AM) daily is most beneficial.

Step 3.

Exercise on a regular basis - Exercise that best mobilizes calcium is weight bearing exercise, the best of which is walking for at least 30min every day.

So eat, soak in sunlight and walk for lifelong healthy bones!!

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