Calcium is a very important mineral in human metabolism, making up about 1-2% of an adult human’s body weight. In addition to its widely known role in bone structure, calcium is used to help control muscle and nerve function, as well as to manage acid/base balance in our blood stream. From this very simple description, you can see how calcium-rich foods can play a role in many aspects of your health that extend far beyond the specific area of bone health.
- While the most common problem related to calcium metabolism is undoubtedly bone loss from getting too little calcium, there can be problems when intake of this nutrient gets too high as well.
- There is still some debate about how much of a problem this is for the average adult, but at this time, most nutrition experts agree that excess dietary calcium is very unlikely, and probably the result of a diet that is largely dependent upon dairy foods.
- At any given time, about 99% of our total body calcium stores are found in bones and teeth.
Excess calcium can deposit in places where it doesn’t belong, including blood vessels and the kidneys (in the form of kidney stones). This calcium plays a critical role in maintaining structural integrity of our skeleton. While calcium is the most critical nutrient to skeletal health, other nutrients provide important support to help absorb and use calcium in the bones. These nutrients include vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but bone is very metabolically active tissue, with bone being built and broken down constantly.
When our dietary calcium levels are too low, we pull calcium from the bones to keep the blood levels close to constant. As long as we correct this imbalance more days than not, this borrowing and returning process works very well. But if we do more borrowing from than replenishing to our calcium stores, bone can become dangerously weak.
In some sense, this gives us flexibility with our diets. In other words, we do not have to get a full supply of calcium each day, as long as we reach our goals most days. As long as your diet contains a wide variety of the foods on our World’s Healthiest Foods list, we believe that your calcium intake should be sufficient to maintain strong bones.