Calcium has a “claim to fame” in regards to osteoporosis and bone health. The two are synonymous for calcium supplement usage. Approximately 99% of our body’s calcium is within our bones and teeth. Calcium is also essential for muscle contractions and proper nerve function to conduct impulses. It is one of the most abundant minerals in our body. When asked, many people will say they take calcium supplements. An increased amount of calcium is not the end all solution for osteoporosis. There are several issues that determine the absorption of calcium in the body, and too much calcium can be dangerous.
Osteoporosis is a progressive disease in which your bones become weaker which causes changes in posture and makes you extremely susceptible to bone fractures. The term osteoporosis means porous bones. There are many factors that can contribute to osteoporosis, not just low calcium intake, most of which we have direct control over:
· Poor dietary habits (low calcium intake, poor vitamin D absorption, high protein diets)
· Excess alcohol consumption
· High caffeine intake
· Lack of exercise
· Cigarette smoking
Another important role of calcium that will be of interest to you bodybuilders and sports enthusiasts is in relation to muscle contraction. When you decide to move, a nerve impulse activate muscles, the impulse is transmitted through what is called the motor endplate of the muscle. The action quickly spreads over the surface of the muscle cell. Contraction of all myofibrils within the muscle takes place instantly. When excitation reaches the point of contact deep within the muscle cell calcium is released into the cytoplasm and reacts with troponin, a protein substances within the muscle, and contraction occurs. After you decide to relax, the impulse is no longer required, calcium is pumped back and tropomyosin, another protein substance, enters the binding site and relaxation occurs. It really is an amazing process that we take for granted. There is much more to this, but I don’t want to lose your interest. Unless you enjoy the technical information, it can be rather confusing or boring. Just realize the importance of calcium in regards to us being able to move properly, not even to mention to exercise properly.
Too much calcium however, can be dangerous. It can cause formation of kidney stones, mental confusion, muscle or abdominal pain and hinder the absorption of Iron. The recommended amount of calcium daily is 1000 – 1200mg per day. Do not consume this amount all at once. Break it up evenly throughout the day. If you are using supplemental calcium, be sure to discuss with your doctor, because calcium can interfere with certain medications. Men with prostate cancer should not take calcium supplementation
There are many different forms of calcium and also debate on which is the best absorbed. Calcium carbonate appears to have the most elemental form of calcium, but may not be absorbed as well as calcium citrate according to several studies. Calcium hydroxyapatite has been shown to improve bone mass, but absorption appears to be poor.
Good food sources of calcium are milk and milk products, sardines, tofu, broccoli and green leafy vegetables. However, green leafy vegetable especially spinach have oxalic acid which interferes with absorption. Cocoa also contains oxalates, so when you add to your milk, you interfere with absorption. So if you are consuming milk for your calcium, drink it plain.
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Mark T. Cuatt