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Calcium

Calcium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, and accounts for between 2 to 3 pounds of our total body mass. Adequate dietary sources of calcium are necessary throughout our lives for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as regulating muscle growth. In conjunction with magnesium, calcium also plays a vital role in the regulation of electrical impulses in the central nervous system and in the activation of various hormones and enzymes required for proper digestion and metabolism. This vital mineral is also necessary to support bodily functions such as blood clotting and maintaining blood pressure. Inadequate intake of calcium can aggravate hypertension, and calcium supplements are known to lower blood pressure in some cases. There is also strong evidence that calcium plays a role in colon cancer, and those with low intake of calcium and vitamin D are more prone to this disease. Inadequate calcium levels can also result in tetany, a condition that commonly results in leg cramps and muscular spasms.

Inadequate intake of this mineral can also result in osteoporosis, a bone disorder caused by loss of calcium in the bones. Osteoporosis results in brittle, porous bones which can be easily fractured or broken. Contrary to popular belief, bones are very much alive, and are constantly losing and replacing calcium. Inadequate intake can result in a slow and dangerous loss of this mineral, leading to osteoporosis.

Calcium absorption takes place in the small intestines, and requires adequate amounts of vitamin D.  The current Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium is 800 mg. for adults, 1,200 mg. for premenopausal women, and 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women unless taking estrogen. Those with kidney disorders should not take calcium supplements unless directed to do so by a health care professional.

Good dietary sources of calcium include all dairy foods, green leafy vegetables, and seafood .  Absorption of dietary calcium can be drastically reduced by consuming large amounts of foods such  as cocoa, spinach, kale, rhubarb, almonds, and whole wheat products which are high in oxalic acid, and are known to interfere with calcium absorption. Taking antibiotics such as tetracycline, or aluminum containing antacids can also result in lower absorption of calcium. Alcohol, sugar, and coffee can also effect the body's levels of this mineral.