Diet & Exercise: Calcium essential for young, old to build bones, prevent osteoporosis

Published 8:00 am Friday, April 27, 2018

The word calcium is derived from the Latin “calx” or “calcis,” meaning “lime”, since it’s extracted from limestone, also from marble and chalk.

Calcium or lime produces a brilliant light when exposed to oxyhydrogen flame. In fact, in the 1800s, before electricity was invented, this substance was used to light up theaters, so actors could see — thus the term “in the limelight.”

Calcium, an alkaline earth metal, has the chemical symbol Ca and atomic number 20 on the periodic table.

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It’s the fifth most abundant element found in the human body. Ninety-nine percent of the elements found in the human body are oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and calcium, with phosphorus being sixth. The average human adult contains about 2 pounds of calcium.

It’s also the fifth-most abundant element found in the earth’s crust.

This mineral is essential to animal and plant nutrition. Calcium is actually found in every human cell.

The first benefit from calcium is obviously strong bones and teeth. Almost all calcium in our bodies is found in the bones and teeth.

Getting enough calcium is important to folks of all ages. Babies and children need it for bone and tooth development. Adults need it to prevent osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which bones become brittle from loss of bone tissue. Osteoporosis doesn’t just affect bones though, it can also affect teeth, by weakening the jawbone, which is the anchor for teeth.

Women, in particular, are three times more likely to loss their teeth if they have osteoporosis than those with healthy bones.

Other calcium benefits include:

• Weight management. Calcium helps maintain healthy weight in both men and women. A deficiency of this mineral, and the body will tend to release parathyroid hormone. This hormone stimulates the production of fat and prevents its breakdown.

• Prevents colon cancer. Calcium prevents the risk for colon cancer and suppresses the growth of polyps that lead to cancer. It is believed that once the body absorbs the calcium it needs, excess calcium is left in the intestines, where it binds with cancer promoters so they’re excreted together from the body.

• Calcium helps protect cardiac muscles. This essential mineral is needed by the heart to help cardiac muscles contract and relax properly. Also, if blood calcium levels are low, a hormone called “calcitriol” is released, which contracts the smooth muscles of the arteries, thereby increasing blood pressure. Also, the National Institutes of Health organized a research study called “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” and found a diet filled with fruits, vegetables and calcium lowered blood pressure.

• Reduces premenstrual depression. Getting adequate amounts of calcium decreases symptoms of a premenstrual syndrome, like dizziness, hypertension, mood swings and others.

• Controls alkaline levels. Eating too many sugars, grains, meats, processed foods, and just everyday stress can cause acidity in the body. This can lead to disease conditions like hypertension, cancer, kidney stones, and even weight gain. Calcium acts as a buffer to help maintain a healthy P.H. level.

• Calcium actively prevents kidney stones. Kidney stones are made up of crystallized deposits of calcium and other minerals. It was once thought that high intake of minerals like calcium contributed to the development of kidney stones, but latest studies show that high dietary calcium intake decreases the risk of developing kidney stones considerably.

One question I often get is, “Does taking calcium cause a build-up of calcium in tissues and blood vessels?” The coronary artery calcium score is a measurement of the amount of calcium in the arteries that supply the heart. 

Coronary calcification is considered a marker for heart disease. While calcium deposited in in plaque is part of the atherosclerosis process, the body is good at regulating blood calcium levels, except in those with metabolic or kidney disorders.

Some studies suggest taking calcium increases coronary disease risks, but most research has found they do not. I do, however suggest folks not exceed recommended daily intakes of calcium, except under supervision of a doctor.

Daily recommended allowances for calcium are babies 0-12 months: 200mg-260 mg, children 1-3 years: 700 mg, children 4-8 years: 1,000 mg, children and teens 9-18 years: 1,300 mg, adults 19-71 years: 1,000 mg, adults 71+: 1,200 mg.

Good food sources of calcium include milk, dairy products like cheese and yogurt, tinned salmon and nuts. 

Diet or exercise question? Email me at or text to 864-494-6215. David Crocker, of Landrum, has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 30 years.