encyclopedia

Calcium

Natural Sources:    

Yogurt, milk, kale, broccoli, tofu, fish (canned salmon and canned sardines with bones).    
     

Forms:    

Standardized calcium capsules, tablets and liquid supplements; multivitamin pills containing calcium.    
     

Therapeutic Uses:    

– Aging Disorders
– Alzheimer's Disease
– Antacid
– Back Pain
– Blood Pressure Control
– Bone Health
– Cancer Prevention
– Cell Membrane Health
– Cellular Regeneration
– Cholesterol Reduction
– Colorectal Cancer Prevention
– Dental Health
– High Blood Pressure
– High Cholesterol
– Hormone Balance
– Immune System Health
– Kidney Stones
– Lower Back Pain
– Mineral Deficiency (RDA=1,200-1,500mg/day)
– Mood Disorders
– Mood Swings
– Muscle Spasms
– Nervous System Health
– Osteomalacia Prevention
– Osteoporosis
– Pellagra
– PMS
– Psoriasis
– Rickets Prevention
– Skin Disorders
– Stroke Prevention
– Tooth Decay
– Vascular Disorders    
    
     
Overview:    

Calcium is a silver-gray metal that takes its name from the Latin word calx, which means lime. It is the fifth most abundant mineral found on the earth's crust (3%). Calcium is the main substance giving strength to biological structures ranging from bones and teeth to leaves, eggshells and seashells. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. More than 99% of calcium in the human body is bound in bone and tooth tissues. Calcium is additionally involved in muscle contraction, blood clotting, estrogen activity, cell growth regulation and maintenance of cell membranes. Clearly, the primary need for calcium in the diet is for keeping bones strong. A second very crucial job for calcium, although less well known, is as a messenger for signal transduction for all the cells in the brain, heart, kidney and other organs and tissues. In order to accomplish the messenger role, calcium must keep its concentration in blood constant. When calcium intake is deficient, parathyroid hormone is secreted to take calcium out of bones, the great calcium reservoir of the body (approximately two to three pounds per person), to bring back the blood calcium concentration to normal. The hormone estrogen protects bone and other tissues by keeping good intestinal calcium absorption and preventing calcium excretion in urine. Osteoporosis develops when there is a sustained loss of calcium from bone. One problem for many women during menopause is that estrogen suddenly stops being produced by the ovaries, and this can give rise to osteoporosis when coupled by dietary deficiencies. Stress and corticosteroid excess also increases calcium loss and osteoporosis. Additionally, calcium deficiency interferes with signal transduction of cells and estrogen activity and can cause increased intracellular calcium and diseases including hypertension, arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer's disease, mood swings, PMS, kidney stones and colorectal cancer.

Cofactors Needed for Absorption:

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, has issued several reports to update the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA's) for vitamins and minerals. They have developed Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI's) as a comprehensive effort to include current concepts about the role of nutrients and food components in long-term health, going beyond deficiency diseases. The latest report stresses the benefits of a high calcium diet together with balanced uptake of calcium's related nutrients: magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Estrogen levels within the body must also be correct if calcium is to be properly absorbed and utilized. Maintaining the proper estrogen balance of the human body means that the ratio between the different forms of estrogen should be approximately: 90% estriol to 7% estradiol to 3% estrone. To quote Dr. Jonathan Wright M.D. and John Morgenthaler:
 
For the last several million years, the human female reproductive system has been running quite well on three separate estrogens; Estriol, Estrone, and Estradiol, which occur in an approximation of 90%; 3%; 7%. Compare that with Premarin, which consists of Estrone (75-80%), equilin (6-15%), Estradiol and two other equine estrogens (5-19%).
 
Dietary intake of phytoestrogens from beans and legumes such as red clover, soy and licorice and from flaxseeds helps the human body (both male and female) to maintain a proper hormone balance. Also critically important for maintaining estrogen balance within the body is maintaining adequate dietary intake of essential fatty acids (particularly the omega-3 EFAs) and iodine. Taking 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil daily with food can assure adequate daily essential fatty acids for maintaining proper hormone balances. And taking kelp supplements can help to maintain body stores of iodine and trace minerals (approximately 1 gram of kelp from the species, Laminaria digitata, daily should be sufficient). The RDA for iodine is at least 1.0 � 2.0 mg per week but even up to 4mg daily seems to be very beneficial for many women (caution must be exercised with iodine because too much iodine can cause hyperthyroidism and heart palpitations). Based on a controlled clinical trial with 1,365 women, 4mg daily of molecular iodine quickly “resolves” fibrocystic breast disease – it makes breast lumps and cysts disappear within two months for most (it can also reduce uterine fibroids). [Ghent WR, Eskin BA, Low D.A. , and Lucius PH. 1993. Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Can J Surg 36 (5): 453-460; Dedyna, K. (1997 September). Iodine: Bosom Buddy. Victoria Times Colonist, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada].
    
    
Chemistry:    

Calcium is a silver-gray metal. Calcium is widely distributed throughout the earth's crust as limestone (CaCO3), quicklime (CaO) and calcium fluoride. The pure metal was isolated in 1808 by Davy and its compounds give a characteristic brick-red color to flames. Calcium metal is fairly reactive and combines with water at room temperature to produce hydrogen gas and calcium hydroxide. It slowly oxidizes in air, becoming encrusted with white CaO and CaCO3.    
     
    
Suggested Amount:     
     
Based on the National Institutes for Health Expert Panel, 1994, the recommended daily allowance for calcium is between 400-1,500mg daily, depending upon age as follows:
 
– Infants, birth to six months – 400 mg
– Infants, six months to one year – 600 mg
– Children, one to ten years – 800 mg
– Children and young adults, ages eleven through twenty-four – 1,200-1,500mg
– Women, age twenty-five to fifty – 1,000mg
– Men, age twenty-five to fifty – 1,000mg
–  Post-menopausal women – 1,000 to 1,500mg
– Women over age sixty-five – 1,500mg.
 
Important Note: Adequate intake of vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus, iodine and boron is also required for proper calcium absorption by the body. Please see Flora's Vitamin D Monograph for further information on recommended supplemental dosages to prevent deficiency.
    
    
Drug Interactions:    

Do not take calcium supplements within 2 hours of another medicine because the effectiveness of the medicine may be altered.    
     
    
Contraindications:    

None known.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

There are no side effects known for calcium taken at normal dosages. However, too much calcium may cause constipation. In this case, drink lots of water to flush the system.    
     
    
References:     
     
Ahsan 1997. Metabolism of magnesium in health and disease. Journal of the Indian Medical Association 95(9): 507-10.
 
Bidlack 1996: Interrelationships of food, nutrition, diet and health. The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges White Paper J. American College of Nutrition. 15(5): 422-33.

Carper, J. 1995. Stop Aging Now. Published by HarperCollins Books, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10103. Pp. 99-108.
 
de la Taille A, Katz A, Vacherot F, Saint F, Salomon L, Cicco A, Abbou CC, Chopin DK. 2001. [Cancer of the prostate: influence of nutritional factors. Vitamins, antioxidants and trace elements]. Presse Med. 2001 Mar 24; 30(11): 557-60. Review. French.

James et al. 1998. Socioeconomic determinants of health. The contribution of nutrition to inequalities in health. BMJ 314(7093): 1545-9; BMJ 316(7127): 308-9
 
Jensen, B. 1938. A Hunza Trip with Dr. Bernard Jensen (The Ultimate Health Valley) by Bernard Jensen, Ph.D. and The Wheel of Health by G.T. Wrench, M.D. This book was First Published in England, 1938, by Dr. McCarrison as Studies in Health Values of this Valley). The Wheel of Health by G.T. Wrench, M.D. Copyright 1990: Bernard Jensen International, 24360 Old Wagon Road, Escondido, CA 92027).
 
Marcus R, Wong M, Heath H 3rd, Stock JL. 2002. Antiresorptive treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis: comparison of study designs and outcomes in large clinical trials with fracture as an endpoint. Endocr Rev. 2002 Feb; 23(1): 16-37. Review.
PMID: 11844743 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Miller et al. 1997. Population nutrient intake approaches dietary recommendations. 1991 to 1995 Farmingham Nutritional Studies. Journal of the American Dietetic Assc. 97(7): 742-9.
Pfeifer M, Lehmann R, Minne HW. Related Articles 2001. [Therapy of osteoporosis from the viewpoint of evidence-based medicine] Med Klin. 2001 May 15; 96(5): 270-80. Review. German.
 
Stallings VA. 1997. Calcium and bone health in children: a review. Am J Ther 1997 Jul-Aug; 4(7-8): 259-73.
Yades, A.A., Schlicker, S.A. and C.W. Suitor 1998. Dietary Reference Intakes: the new basis for recommendations for calcium and related nutrients, B vitamins and choline. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 98(6): 699-706.
    
     
Additional Information:     
     
Calcium Deficiency in Children:
A recent national survey shows that dietary calcium intake is variable in children and adolescents, with about half consuming less than the intake recommended by the Recommended Dietary Allowances or the National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel on Optimal Calcium Intake. Osteoporosis is a major disease in adults, resulting in 1.5 million fractures and over $10 billion in medical expenditures annually. Randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trials conducted in healthy children who are consuming amounts of dietary calcium in accordance with the US recommendations show that bone mass can be increased by calcium supplementation. It has also been shown that childhood calcium intake is associated with risk of later osteoporosis and fracture. In addition, the development of osteoporosis in childhood, not just in adulthood, can be caused by low calcium intake related to lactose intolerance or the use of glucocorticoid medications. The authors of this survey recommend a screening program to be used by physicians and other pediatric care providers to detect children with low dietary calcium intake, low bone density, and other osteoporosis risk factors and recommend the use of calcium supplementation in clinical care. [Stallings VA. 1997. Calcium and bone health in children: a review. Am J Ther 1997 Jul-Aug; 4(7-8): 259-73].
 
Calcium and Magnesium Update by Suzanne Diamond, B.Sc., M.Sc. (Botany)
(Originally published in Flora's Herbal Research Report, Fall 1998 Issue 1-4)

A high calcium and magnesium diet is considered by medical researchers to be extremely beneficial for preventing heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, hypertension and many other serious diseases. Even so, a recent survey by the American Dietetic Association found that about half or fewer of a randomly sampled North American population met the guidelines for calcium intake, and other studies have shown below RDA intakes for calcium and magnesium. This type of undernourishment is considered by the American College of Nutrition to be responsible for at least 30% of national health cost expenditures, according to one study done in 1990.

It may seem strange to some people that a society that is so centered on dairy products and meat can still be replete with calcium deficiency diseases, but it has been well documented by science that calcium from vegetable sources is much better absorbed by the body. In fact, animal protein tends to acidify the body and cause calcium to leach from the bones, which then results in increased excretion of calcium in the urine. Eating animal protein actually increases urine levels of calcium, oxalate and uric acid and, over time, this can encourage kidney stone formation as well. Our Stone Age ancestors ate approximately 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of calcium daily, mostly from edible wild plants. That's five times more than today's average of a mere 500 milligrams for women aged thirty-five to seventy-four (based on a large-scale government study). This explains why North Americans, who consume copious amounts of animal products, including dairy, suffer from some of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world. Many cultures that have a more vegetarian type of diet do not suffer from osteoporosis, even though they have far lower intakes of calcium overall (from roots and vegetables). For example, there is one African tribe that has a notoriously low dietary calcium intake overall, but the people routinely grow to a ripe old age with strong backs and a good upright posture because they are mostly vegetarian. Calcium from animal products is suffused with protein, which breaks down into amino acids and acidifies the body. Because blood must remain at a constant pH and calcium level, the body secretes parathyroid hormone that takes calcium from the bones to replenish the blood. So although calcium intake is higher with animal products, excretion is also higher.

Calcium and magnesium together play an important role in controlling hypertension. The British Medical Journal recently published a scientific review of the effects of a low calcium and magnesium diet as a contributing factor in many common diseases including heart disease, stroke and some cancers. They conclude that a diet high in meat products, full cream, milk, fats, sugars, preserves, potatoes and cereals but low in vegetables, fruit and whole wheat bread is low in essential nutrients especially calcium and magnesium. They also note that there is scope for enormous health gain if this type of low-nutrient diet can be rectified. (James et al.)

Most people understand how important calcium is for the strength of bones and teeth and the health of skin, but few realize that it's function in the body often depends on adequate levels of magnesium. Magnesium (Mg) is an essential element which catalyses more than 300 enzymatic reactions, in particular those involving the fundamental energy molecule of the body, ATP. About half of the total magnesium in the body is found intra-cellularly in soft tissues, and the other half is in bone. Blood levels of magnesium represent only 1% of the body's total magnesium store. Despite the importance of magnesium to myriad bodily functions, hypomagnesemia is surprisingly common in hospital populations and in the general public and often remains undetected and overlooked. Magnesium deficiency may result in a condition known as hypocalcaemia (low calcium). In heart tissue, magnesium depletion can lead to an influx of sodium and calcium cations into the mitochondria (where energy for a cell is produced) and this may lead to myocardial cell death. Researchers concluded that a low magnesium concentration in the diet might be a factor in a wide variety of clinical conditions. (Ahsan 1997)

It has also been well documented by science that liquid forms of these essential minerals are far more bioavailable than solid forms from crushed up rocks, which our bodies were not designed to digest. The Physicians Desk Reference illustrates this point nicely with a chart showing that only 10-20% of a pill form of a particular vitamin and mineral supplement is absorbed compared to 98% absorption from a liquid form. Liquid supplements are definitely easier on the digestive tract as well. Even dissolving multivitamin and mineral pills in water or juice prior to taking them will enhance the body's uptake of the nutrients and reduce the stress that these pills cause on the gastrointestinal tract. It is also highly advisable to take multivitamin/mineral supplements with food or directly before a meal.

Nature knows best, and in nature, vitamins and minerals are found in a food matrix that is more likened to a liquid state than a pill form. The best way to achieve this complex requirement of the body is with a liquid calcium-magnesium tonic that is derived from fruits and vegetables. In this way, these minerals can be provided in their most bioavailable forms, where all of the trace elements, amino acids and other nutrients that are required for their proper absorption can be found. Scientifically prepared calcium magnesium liquid formulas are available under the Floradix label. They are highly bioavailable and properly balanced for maximum effectiveness.

A good example of increased health and longevity with a high calcium/magnesium diet can be found with the Hunzas. The Hunza people, who live high up in the Himalayan mountains between India and China, are known to be one of the healthiest populations on earth. They routinely live to be 120 or more years old and have all of their teeth when they die. Dr. Bernard Jensen, one of America's foremost pioneering nutritionists, studied the diet of the Hunza's and used this information to heal many people of chronic diseases. After visiting the Hunza's mountain top valley community, Dr. Jensen reported that the people there suffer from no major sicknesses and have no doctors, no nurses, no insanity or anything else we could call ill health. One of the important keys to their good health is thought to be from the high calcium and magnesium diet that they get both from their water (glacier-fed water rich in colloidal minerals including calcium from limestone) and vegetarian food (irrigated with this high calcium, rich mineral water). They do not have spinal problems, rickets or children with pronated ankles. One woman who Dr. Bernard Jensen treated in America had a condition called pellagra, which is known to result from calcium deficiency. She had 13 leg ulcers, weeping and inflamed that several doctors had tried to cure her of for over three years! Dr. Bernard Jensen thought about the diet of the Hunza's, 85% of which consisted of sunshine foods: vegetables, fruits, berries, apricots, melons, cabbages and so forth. He compared that to the American diet which generally only contains 20% of these sunshine foods.

Realizing that sun fixes calcium in the human body (which is why calcium deficiencies are often treated with U.V. light treatments), Dr. Jensen decided to treat this woman with a high calcium/magnesium drink. He chopped off the tops of nine sun veggies including beet greens, turnip greens, parsley, celery tops, endive, watercress, romaine and bib lettuce and placed them in water for two hours, strained the green chlorophyll water through cheesecloth and recommended six to seven glasses of this “green juice” each day. He also made a few changes to the rest of her diet. Within six days her leg ulcers were healed!! He did not have to use any salves or ointments – just fed this drink and the ulcers dried out and new pink skin formed.

I think we can all learn a great deal from the Hunza's, these people who are known and admired for their excellent health, as well as for their fearlessness and good tempered cheer. They are living proof of the benefits of a high calcium and magnesium diet!

References:

Ahsan 1997. Metabolism of magnesium in health and disease. Journal of the Indian Medical Association 95(9): 507-10.

Bidlack 1996: Interrelationships of food, nutrition, diet and health. The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges White Paper J. American College of Nutrition. 15(5): 422-33.

James et al. 1998. Socioeconomic determinants of health. The contribution of nutrition to inequalities in health. BMJ 314(7093): 1545-9; BMJ 316(7127): 308-9
 
Jensen, B. 1938. A Hunza Trip with Dr. Bernard Jensen (The Ultimate Health Valley) by Bernard Jensen, Ph.D. and The Wheel of Health by G.T. Wrench, M.D. This book was First Published in England, 1938, by Dr. McCarrison as Studies in Health Values of this Valley). The Wheel of Health by G.T. Wrench, M.D. Copyright 1990: Bernard Jensen International, 24360 Old Wagon Road, Escondido, CA 92027).