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Calcium is essential to our body. Its claim to fame is as a vital component for building bones, however it also has an important role in the proper function of the nerves and muscles, and in the blood clotting process. Calcium deficiency can lead to various kinds of diseases.
Bone building and resorption processes occur continuously in our bodies. During old age, more resorption than building processes occur and various diseases can worsen the process. The most common bone disease is osteoporosis. There is no cure for the disease, however, we know that a balanced level of calcium in the body might prevent its appearance.
Bone health and calcium deficiency
The connection between calcium intake and the prevention of osteoporosis has been known now for many years. Studies have shown that the calcium intake of many of the people suffering from the disease was significantly lower than the recommended daily intake. In many cases, the reason was an unbalanced diet containing foods with a low percentage of calcium.
An additional factor impacting the calcium level in the body is the calcium availability and absorption efficiency. Calcium loss is a condition in which the calcium supplied to the body is unable to be absorbed by the body. One of the main reasons for calcium loss is the presence of toxins that link to the calcium and prevent its availability to the body. An additional reason is a deficiency of vitamin D, which is essential to the absorption of calcium.
The recommended daily intake of calcium in adults is 1000 mg until the age of 50 and 1200 mg over the age of 50. Calcium deficiency directly affects bone health and an extended deficiency might impair the bones in an irreversible manner.
Calcium intake from food
Foods containing calcium are dairy products, sardines, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, legumes, sunflower seeds, nuts, whole sesame and sesame products (whole tahini for example). There are also various vegetal sources of calcium which contain a fair amount of calcium, however, absorption of calcium from vegetal sources is not effective since plants are rich in nutritional fibers and certain acids which hinder absorption.
Sodium also hinders calcium absorption and therefore salty foods are not recommended. A high caffeine and alcohol intake increase calcium loss in the urine and reduce its availability to the body.
In order to increase calcium absorption, it is recommended to consume it in small amounts throughout the day and not all in one meal. The smaller the amount of calcium per meal, the more effective its absorption in the body.
Calcium intake from dietary supplements
When the calcium level in the body is low, dietary supplements containing calcium are recommended. A supplement containing a large quantity of calcium combined with vitamin D is most recommended for maximum absorption in the body. Treatment integrating dietary supplements containing a combination of calcium and vitamin D has been found effective in reducing the risk of fractures and in improving bone health.
In Israel, like in many other countries, calcium intake from food is insufficient. Those who do not eat any dairy, soybean substitutes or other calcium enriched foods might develop a calcium deficiency and therefore should undergo periodic tests and if necessary, make up the difference with dietary supplements containing calcium.