It won’t surprise you to learn that calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Males carry about three pounds and females carry 1.36 kg and males carry 0.907 kg – most of it in bones and teeth with the rest found in the soft tissues and watery parts of the body where it regulates the normal body process. That’s the kind of weight you want to fortify, not lose!
Calcium provides a great example of exactly how minerals work synergistically with vitamins, enzymes and other minerals. About 10-40% of the calcium you get from your diet is absorbed in the small intestine with the help of vitamin D. (Calcium can’t be absorbed well without both vitamin D and hydrochloric acid). Magnesium is also a member of this powerful team that helps to fortify bones.
If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, the body will begin to dip into its reserves – your bones. If the deficiency goes on long enough, you’ll suffer from osteoporosis. While this disease can strike at any age, older people are more vulnerable. One in four women and one in eight men over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. Eighty percent of women are deficient in calcium and this world-wide health problem costs billions of dollars to treat. This condition is much more than just a nuisance, it’s a serious health problem that’s easily preventable.
For both men and women, peak bone density is achieved during late adolescence. Around 35 years of age, bones begin to thin for both sexes. This process accelerates for women when estrogen levels drop at menopause. Women lose about one-third of their bone mass during their lifetimes while men lose about one-fifth. The more bone mass one develops as an adolescent, the more protected one will be from the inevitable loss that happens as you get older.
In a recent study of adolescent girls, raising calcium intake with supplements from 80% of the current recommended dietary allowance to 110%increased bone mass by more than 1% per year during adolescent growth. In another study, of men and women ages 50 to 79, those in the top third in terms of calcium consumption suffered 60% fewer hip fractures over the next 14 years than the others. Calcium is essential throughout life.
Here’s a red flag for caffeine lovers – too much caffeine can reduce your calcium levels. A recent study of 84000 middle-aged women found that those who drank more than four cups of coffee a day were three times more likely to suffer from hip fractures than women who had little or no caffeine.