The body has more calcium in it than any other mineral, with 90% of it being stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining 10% is used for blood clotting, nerve and muscle functioning and in metabolic processes such as digestion. If the body doesn’t absorb enough calcium, degeneration takes place from the skeleton where calcium reserves are located.
Most people appreciate the importance of calcium within the body but many people may be unaware of the various factors influencing the absorption of calcium. The amount of calcium you take in through food and supplements is not necessarily the same amount that makes it into your bloodstream. On average, only 20-30% of the calcium you take in is actually absorbed.
Stress has a negative influence on calcium absorption; so too does the consumption of alcohol, tea and coffee. Excessive protein in the diet may also lead to reduced calcium absorption. It is important to undertake weight-bearing exercise as this helps calcium to be absorbed by the body. Many people today are Vitamin D deficient due to the scare of excessive sun exposure and cancer. Vitamin D is critical to our body since is stimulates calcium absorption, so a daily dose of sunshine is important. Other minerals that support calcium absorption are Vitamin C, phosphorus and magnesium.
Signs of deficiency to look out for are muscle cramping, insomnia, high blood pressure, joint pain and osteoarthritis. Calcium deficiency together with hormone-imbalances can contribute towards the development of osteoporosis. The best sources of calcium are kelp, sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables, soya beans and almonds.
When considering calcium supplementation, it is important to note that calcium is well absorbed in small, frequent doses rather than in a large single dose. It is worth looking for slow-release calcium supplements. Minerals are bound (chelated) to different compounds to help their absorption. When calcium is bound to carbonate or sulphate, it is not very well absorbed by the body. In a 500mg calcium carbonate supplement you are only getting 200mg of usable calcium. Calcium is better absorbed when it is bound to an amino acid, ascorbate or gluconate. Read supplement labels carefully.