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Calcium supplements do more harm than good or so it has been suggested. A published study looked at the link between calcium supplements and the risk of heart attack, strokes, and deaths from cardiovascular disease over a period of 11 years. This German study found no link between the amount of calcium in people’s diet and their risk of stroke or cardiovascular deaths. However, people using calcium supplement as their only form of supplement had more than twice the increase in heart attack and stroke compared with people who didn’t take any vitamin supplements.
Calcium: Tough as Nails Facts
Your body contains roughly 2.2 pounds of calcium in the body, that’s more than any other mineral! Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, and that’s where over 99% of body’s calcium is found. Calcium also helps the muscles work properly, including the heart muscle but it is probably best known for helping prevent osteoporosis.
Calcium supplements are often recommended to elderly people and menopausal women, in an effort to keep their bones healthy and strong. In order for calcium to be absorbed and used properly, your body needs several other nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorous and especially vitamins D and K.
How Does Calcium Get Absorbed in my Body?
Your intestines have two mechanisms to absorb dietary calcium:
Transcellular Absorption – the primary means of calcium absorption
Cells in the first portion of your small intestine, the duodenum, actively absorb calcium. Specialized pores called TRP channels on the surface of duodenal intestinal cells take up calcium from digested food. A protein called calbindin transports absorbed calcium to pumps that export the mineral into your bloodstream.
When you eat meals containing a high concentration of calcium, a second absorption system kicks in to help absorb calcium not taken up by the transcellular mechanism. The paracellular calcium absorption system operates throughout your small and large intestines. The cells lining your intestines are shaped similar to microscopic bricks. The interface between the cells is called a tight junction (TJ). TJs are minute gaps between intestinal cells through which calcium and other small molecules can pass. When the calcium concentration is higher in your intestines than in your blood, the mineral crosses through the TJs and enters your bloodstream. This is also termed passive diffusion.
The way the body absorbs calcium is an important factor when considering taking calcium supplements. It is better to start off at a lower dose and gradually increase it to a point that your body can absorb it efficiently. It is also recommended to supplement calcium with other vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper bone growth and maintenance, such as vitamin D and K and phosphorous and magnesium. Talk to your pharmacist or a qualified health counselor to make sure your getting the right amount.
Vitamin D & Calcium
If you are deficient in vitamin D, than your calcium is probably not getting absorbed. Vitamin D stimulates the transcellular calcium absorption system. Calbindin is required throughout this process and production of this protein depends on the adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Should I Take a Calcium Supplement?
The best way to get calcium is through food. Many foods are fortified with calcium, but some people may still need to take calcium supplements to get enough. It is especially important for children to get enough calcium in their diet as they are growing and forming bone, and for older people as they start to lose bone.
Postmenopausal women, people who consume large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, or soda, and those who take corticosteroid medications may need calcium supplements.
Calcium deficiency can be found in people who don' t absorb enough calcium, which can happen with Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and some intestinal surgeries.
So, if you have been recommended to take a calcium supplement, don’t be alarmed by the headlines. Don’t stop taking your supplements because you probably were recommended to take those supplements for specific reasons. Before jumping to the conclusion that calcium supplements are harmful, speak to your pharmacist or other qualified health professional and get more information regarding what is being printed in the news.
Celiac disease (CD) is increasingly being diagnosed among the Canadian population. As many as 300,000 Canadians could have this disease; and it can strike at any age. If left undiagnosed, severe complications may occur later in life.