Calcium has become an essential component of our diet. It is an integral nutrient that serves the various functions of the human body and is vital for the performance of various functions in human health. Calcium makes up 99 percent of our bodies in bones and teeth. It’s the most concentrated mineral in our body. Other nutrients, such as vitamin D, protein, and phosphorus, are essential for the metabolism of calcium. It is important to provide attention to early bone formation and health of the bones to have stable bone mass during the old age. Adequate calcium intake is important to avoid risk of fractures, osteoporosis and even diabetes in some people around the world. This paper will discuss the importance of calcium and its adequate intake, to review the role of calcium in human health by comparing nutrient requirements across the globe and strategies to deal with deficiency of calcium.
Keywords: Calcium deficiency, Calcium metabolism, Bone mass, Nutrition, Growth
Calcium is one of the most abundant and important nutrient of human body. Earlier researches were based on calcium intake and its impact on earlier growth stages of infancy and childhood. However, since the last decade growing risks of calcium deficiency has led to many studies about calcium requirements during later stages of life as well.
Apart from bone and teeth calcium is found in multiple tissue compartments in the human body. This includes serum pool of approximately 1,200- 1,400 mg. with this extracellular pool the plasma level of calcium is maintained at specific levels of 8.4-9.5mg. Various hormones and other bodily substances help controlling this metabolism. It is highly important to maintain these normal calcium levels in the body as a small drop in calcium below the normal level leads to an immediate response in the body (Judith.A.Beto, 2015).
Basically calcium metabolism is maintained through the three organ system which includes kidney, the intestines and the bone. The kidney through filtration and urination functions helps in rapid release or absorption of calcium. The intestines however are comparatively slower in response. A daily intake of 1000mg of calcium leads to 800mg of calcium available for tissue nutrients and the rest 200 mg to maintain serum calcium levels. The bone pool is flexible and depends on body size and bone density.
Calcium is an important nutrient as it is involved in various functions in the human body. It is used throughout the body in small amounts for muscle functions, tissue nutrition, hormonal secretion, bone formation as well as nerve transmission. Even a small scarcity of calcium leads to serious health issues and that is why maintaining adequate calcium levels is highly essential.
Over the years many parts of the globe have been suffering due to calcium deficiency specifically the developing nations. This paper will help in understanding the problems related with calcium deficiency and how it is spread across the world. The overall goal of choosing this topic is to understand the nuances involved with calcium intake and suggest ways to combat this problem.
The three major population groups that are at the highest risk for calcium deficiency are women, individuals with milk allergy or lactose intolerance or adolescents and elderly population.
The most vulnerable out of all are female adolescents as during this stage they experience a lot of physical as well as hormonal change and during this time bone formation and growth is at the most crucial stage. Even in later stages of life women continue to be at the highest risk as menopause and other such changes lead to significant reduction in bone mass. At this stage hormonal imbalances affect the bone mineralization process that is one of the basic reasons for calcium deficiency in women. Apart from this women with eating disorders have also been found to be at a high risk for calcium deficiency.
Individuals with lactose intolerance or those with milk allergy suffer from calcium deficiency from the very early stage of life due to their inability to consume calcium- containing foods and this leads to calcium defiance. The risks involved with calcium deficiency are high in such individuals and they need dietary modifications as a part of their treatment.
Teenage population or adolescents have recently been found to have high risk of calcium deficiency due to change in dietary habits. The food they consume and their dietary patterns are changing and hence there is a growing risk throughout the world. Substituting dairy product or milk with other food items or beverages is the major reason behind decreased intake of calcium. Old age people are prone to calcium deficiency due to less calcium intake over time or due to medication that decrease their calcium absorption (Judith.A.Beto, 2015). .
According to a recent Korean National Health and Nutrient Examination Survey (KHANES), in the Unites States over 1.4 million fractures are reported each year in elderly population over the age of 60 and their calcium intake is significantly less. Only 78% females meet the recommended intake of 700mg calcium per day, their average intake is 517mg/day. The adolescents aged 12-16 were also found to have a low average calcium intake of about 648-666 mg/day.
This less intake of calcium led to increased incidents of chronic diseases throughout the world such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems etc.
Nutrient Recommendation for healthy adults for
Calcium and Vitamin D by country (National Institute of Health, US, 2014)
Vitamin D, IU/day
Population across the globe has been suffering from calcium deficiency and its serious consequences on health such as increased incidents of fractures, osteoporosis and other cardio vascular problems. Almost every age group have been having symptoms of calcium deficiency starting from children that suffer mal-nutrition, adolescents and adults due to change in dietary patterns.
The importance of balanced diet and each and every nutrient should be well addressed from the primary and pre-primary stages in schools as well as homes. Parents should be made aware about the issue with the help of counselling and other government plans and seminars on a regular basis.
This paper is important for all age groups and genders across the world as not only developing nations but developed nations are also in the radar of calcium deficiency. It will help in understanding the importance of maintaining adequate levels of calcium and other nutrients required for healthy bone density and creating awareness amongst the children from the primary level itself. The consequences of calcium deficiency and how this problem can be tackled and corrected.
Approaches or Treatment
It is advised to have proper diet to achieve required calcium intake. However due to changing dietary patterns oral calcium supplements can help combat the lack of calcium in the body. There are various calcium supplements available with different absorption rates and should be taken as per the specific age requirements. Different genders also have different calcium requirements that these supplements help to fulfil.
Lactase is an enzyme that helps in breaking down the sugar lactose primarily found in dairy products. People suffering from milk intolerance develop lactase deficiency which should be diagnosed as and when it appears. This problem can be handled by other calcium compounds that do not lead to milk allergy and help maintaining the lactase production.
Lactose free products
Another option is consumption of lactose free products such as fermented and processed food products. Lactase tablets or drops can be taken with medical prescription.
As per recent research by National Institute of Health (US), maintaining the average intake of 800-1,100 mg/day of calcium reduced the risk of fractures in the adults by 1.5 times. Along with calcium intake the adults were also studied on intake of other nutrients that affect calcium metabolism such as phosphorus, zinc and vitamin D. It was found that adults maintaining the average intake of these nutrients with their normal diet suffered less hip fractures as Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption.
Majority of bone mineral content is calcium which is approximately 80-90%. However, other nutrients such as zinc, copper, protein, vitamin D are also required for proper and normal calcium metabolism. It is important to understand the interaction between various factors that affect calcium scarcity in the human body to overcome this problem. These factors include life style, dietary pattern, hormonal changes, and heredity patterns.
Mostly calcium deficiency and its impact on bone health, development of osteoporosis and fractures is studied alone however, many nutrients are co-dependent and the impact of their interaction with nutritional and genetic environment should not be neglected. If these factors are understood and awareness can be created amongst individuals starting from the primary education itself this problem of growing calcium deficiency can be easily resolved.
The paper discussed the importance of calcium and the reasons why it is an essential nutrient for human health. The differences in dietary requirements as per age, gender and population group should be maintained throughout the life cycle. Slightest drop in the average calcium intake can lead to grave consequence at the later stages of life. The adequate intake must be maintained for healthy bone mineral density by consuming natural calcium rich food and products. However, calcium supplements and lactose free food products can help in correcting the deficiencies in the risk population which are particularly women, elderly and the adolescents. The relation of calcium with other nutrients needs to be studied to maintain a proper calcium absorption mechanism. Awareness and healthy balanced diet will help in resolving this issue on a larger front.
Judith.A.Beto. The Role of Calcium in Human Aging, Department of Nutritional Sciences, USA, 2015.
National Institutes of Health (US) Dietary supplement fact sheet: Calcium, Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health; 2013.