Authored By Murigi

What you need to know about calcium and your health

An overview of calcium

Calcium is a mineral abundantly found in the body. Many foods contain calcium and these forms the primary source for the body. Without adequate calcium, bones become weak and can easily fracture. Teeth may also become weak, loose and may fall out. Other body systems such as the heart, the muscles, and the nervous system need the mineral in order to function normally. In addition to these, many hormones and enzymes need calcium to do their work. In short, calcium is vital for overall health.

Signs and symptoms of calcium deficiency

Calcium deficiency occurs gradually. Long before bone thinning is discovered due to deficiency, a condition called osteopenia may have been present for sometimes. This is a situation whereby bone mass density is reduced. The condition is usually discovered during screening and not necessarily due to symptoms presentation.

If deficiency persists, signs and symptoms will include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensation
  • Convulsion
  • Abnormal heartbeats

Prolonged and severe deficiency can lead to death.

Risk factors for calcium deficiency

Some people are more likely to suffer from calcium deficiency than others. These include:

  • Women who have reached menopause
  • Young women who exercise heavily
  • People with indigestion issues accompanied by diarrhea and malabsorption
  • Vegans who poorly plan their overall diet. A study published in the Topics in Integrative Health Care – an International Journal of 2014, found that vegans are at a higher risk of low bone mass density than their omnivore counterparts. However, the authors concluded that with good planning, vegans can enjoy bone health like healthy non-vegans.
  • Absorption rate reduces with age
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Calcium absorption inhibitors in the diet. The main ones include oxalic acid and phytic acid.
  • Low stomach acid
  • Alcoholism

Sources of calcium

There are two main sources of calcium. These are dietary and nutritional supplements. Under dietary sources, it can either be from animal or plant sources. For the purpose of this article, the plant sources of the mineral include:

  • Dried or fresh seaweeds such as dulse, nori, wakame, and hijiki. The dry type contains more calcium by weight. The fresh type on the other hand has to be consumed in higher amounts to achieve the same amount of calcium.
  • Non-purified tap water
  • Mineral water
  • Carrots
  • Soy milk (some of these products are calcium fortified)
  • Turnip leaves
  • Collards
  • Swiss chard
  • Whole grains. These contain relatively smaller amounts of calcium. However, these little amounts add up because these foods are in most cases consumed more frequently and in larger portions.
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Mustard leaves
  • Bok choi (type of Chinese cabbage)
  • spinach

Nutritional supplements

Calcium nutritional supplements come in various types that vary in their absorbability. The common types include:

  • Calcium citrate
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Calcium phosphate
  • Calcium citrate malate
  • Calcium orotate
  • Calcium gluconate
  • Calcium lactate

According to the arthritis foundation, calcium citrate is the most easily absorbed form while calcium gluconate and lactate contain so little calcium that they are not worth considering.

Calcium supplements may also be available singly or as part of a multi-mineral or as multivitamin preparation. When in form of a complex vitamin or mineral product, the amount of elemental calcium may be comparatively low compared to products that contain calcium alone.

On the other hand, calcium supplement in a vitamin or mineral complex may be physiologically beneficial because the bioavailability of calcium is dependent on other factors such as vitamin D, vitamin K, the right ratio of magnesium, and many other factors. Vitamin D and K are calcium cofactors and are therefore important in order to realize the benefits of the mineral including its absorption rate.

When choosing a calcium supplement, consider the type and the amount of elemental calcium in it. Another thing to take into account includes the source and the reputation of the merchant or manufacturer.


Health benefits of calcium

For many people, the benefits of calcium start and end with strong bones and teeth. While these benefits are an established fact, there are many more health benefits of this mineral. These include:

  • Prevents or stops bone thinning (osteoporosis)
  • Supports muscle functions and prevents cramps
  • Helps to maintain good body pH
  • Supports better sleep
  • Promotes healthy metabolism of iron
  • Reduces stress
  • Supports better heart health. This includes a reduction of the risk for high blood pressure
  • Lowers the risk of cancer of the colon and rectum
  • Healthy pregnancy. Reduces risk of preeclampsia
  • May help in weight loss
  • Supports better mental focus



Calcium dosage depends on many factors that include:

  • Age
  • General health status
  • Other diseases
  • Gender
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding

According to the National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements, the table below shows suggested daily recommended dosages for various groups of consumers.



Recommended Daily Amount

Birth to 6 months

200 mg

Infants 7–12 months

260 mg

Children 1–3 years

700 mg

Children 4–8 years

1,000 mg

Children 9–13 years

1,300 mg

Teens 14–18 years

1,300 mg

Adults 19–50 years

1,000 mg

Adult men 51–70 years

1,000 mg

Adult women 51–70 years

1,200 mg

Adults 71 years and older

1,200 mg

Pregnant and breastfeeding teens

1,300 mg

Pregnant and breastfeeding adults

1,000 mg


Safety and interactions

When calcium is taken in diet, it is considered safe because chances of over dosage are unlikely. However, when supplementation is done through commercial supplements or through prescription calcium products, then the possibility of over dosage is present. If the right dosages are adhered to as per the manufacturer’s (or doctor’s) recommendations, then ill side effects are unlikely. If taken in excess, some likely health problems to arise can include:

  • Constipation
  • Higher risk of kidney stones
  • Higher risk of prostate cancer (controversial)
  • Higher risk of heart disease. In this study, the authors feel that this is not the case.
  • May interfere with zinc absorption
  • Reduces iron absorption

Calcium can interact with the following drugs and so should not be used concurrently.

  1. Medications for osteoporosis such as bisphosphonates
  2. Antibiotics in the fluoroquinolones and tetracycline groups
  3. Phenytoin
  4. Levothyroxine – a drug for treating hypothyroidism
  5. Antacids
  6. Steroids such as prednisone

With so many calcium supplements out there, it can be a daunting task to know which product to go for. It need not be that difficult. At Belisan, specially formulated and wholesome calcium supplements are available. To find out more about this, click here


Can Vegans Have Healthy Bones? A Literature Review - Topics in Integrative Health Care 2014, Vol. 5(4)   ID: 5.4003

Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.

Kampman E, Slattery M, Bette C, Potter J. Calcium, vitamin D, sunshine exposure, dairy products, and colon cancer risk. Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:459-66. [PubMed abstract]

Baron JA, Beach M, Mandel JS, van Stolk RU, Haile RW, Sandler RS, et al. Calcium supplements for the prevention of colorectal adenomas. N Engl J Med 1999;340:101-7. [PubMed abstract]

Li K, Kaaks R, Linseisen J, et al

Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg) Heart 2012;98:920-925.


Calcium Metabolism and Correcting Calcium Deficiencies

Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, Volume 41, Issue 3, Pages 527-556

Ronald D. Emkey, Gregory R. Emkey


American Medical Association (AMA). "High supplemental calcium intake may increase risk of CVD death in men." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2013. <>.







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