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Calcium and its Importance

sir humphry davyCalcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. Calcium was isolated in 1808 by Sir Humphry Davy. It has several important functions. More than 99% of total body calcium is stored in the bones and teeth where it functions to support their structure [1]. Calcium is what makes your bones and teeth hard.

The level of calcium circulating in the blood is closely regulated to ensure a constant and adequate supply to our cells. One way our body maintains that level is by pulling calcium from our bones if we do not consume enough. Over time, this leads to osteoporosis (literally, "porous bones") and can result in broken bones.

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The remaining 1% is found throughout the body in blood, muscle, and the fluid between cells. In these areas calcium helps your muscles contract and your blood clot. It also helps your nervous system work properly [2].

sports_supplementsSpecific Benefits of Calcium are as follows;

  • Healthy Skeletal Function

  • Prevention of Bone Loss

  • Prevention of Colon Cancer

  • Prevention of Hypertension

  • Prevention of Preclampsia of Pregnancy

  • Cardiovascular Wellness

  • Strong Bones and Teeth

  • Tissue Glue: Calcium participates in cell adhesion maintaining the integrity of the linings of body cavities and the skin

  • Calcium regulates pH and the cell membranes voltage and channel openings, thereby bringing nutrients to the cell

  • Required for normal DNA function

  • Essential for nerve impulse conduction

  • Required for skeletal muscle contraction

  • Calcium is required for almost every major body functions

  • Essential for cell division, immune function, enzyme activity and hormone production

What is the Recommended Intake for Calcium?

Male and
Female Age

Calcium (mg/day)

Pregnancy & Lactation

0 to 6 months

210

N/A

7 to 12 months

270

N/A

1 to 3 years

500

N/A

4 to 8 years

800

N/A

9 to 13 years

1300

N/A

14 to 18 years

1300

1300

19 to 50 years

1000

1000

51+ years

1200

N/A

*mg=milligrams Source: [2]

Lack of Calcium

Based on recent studies there is a concern that Americans are not meeting the recommended intake for calcium. According to CSFII 1994-96 (Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals), on average, the following percentage of Americans are not meeting their recommended intake for calcium [3]:

  • 44% boys and 58% girls ages 6-11

  • 64% boys and 87% girls ages 12-19

  • 55% men and 78% of women ages 20+

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It is best to meet your calcium requirements from food based sources. However, due to today's modern farming practices, pesticides, genetically modified foods and soil mineral depletion has taken its toll on the many of the sources of food based calcium. Food based calcium supplements can help you meet the RDA, however, not all calcium supplements are the same. The sources of most calcium in supplements varies, depending on the brand. Calcium carbonate, calcium lactate, calcium gluconate and oyster shells (basically calcium carbonate) are the most common sources.

What are the Food Based Sources of Calcium?

All milk (whole, 1 percent lowfat, 2 percent lowfat, skim, nonfat dry, buttermilk, chocolate, or malted) and other dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, ice cream and ice milk are excellent sources of calcium. However these products may contian synthetic hormones and other substances that are of question safety. Also, butter, cream, cream cheese, and whipped cream contain mostly fat and are not considered good sources of calcium.

Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D biochemistry is very complex. Calcium and Vitamin D (especially Vitamin D3) work hand-in-hand, neither nutrient can be effective without each other. A substantial proportion of calcium absorption into the body is under the control of vitamin D3. This vitamin exerts important influences on the handling of calcium by the body. When the proper levels of Vitamin D are not met, the blood levels of calcium will tend to fall. This intern will cause the body to pull calcium from the bones leading to osteoporosis.

Importance of Sunlight

Sunlight is the most important source of Vitamin D. It is synthesized in the skin as a consequence of exposure to sunlight. Ricketts, a disease that afflicted mainly coal miners is caused by a lack of Vitamin D. Sunlight is important for healthy Vitamin D synthesis, however modern science has clearly defined the health risks associated with overexposure to the sun.

[1] Shils ME. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999.
[2] Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Washington DC: The National Academies Press, 1997.
[3] U.S. Department of Agriculture. Results from the United States Department of Agriculture's 1994-96 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals/Diet and Health Knowledge Survey. 1994-96. http://www.barc.usda.gov/bhnrc/foodsurvey/Products9496.
html#foodandnutrientintakes.

The Most Popular Enzymes 

As mentioned earlier, there are several enzymes in the body, each performing a specific function. It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss all of them. Here is a brief discussion of the most popular enzymes:

Amylase: Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrate (starch) into simpler unites which can then be converted to sugar (glucose) by other enzymes to provide body with energy. It was the first enzyme to be discovered and isolated in 1833 by Anselme Payen. It is synthesized and secreted by glands in the mouth into saliva and pancreas into the intestines. This means carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth. There three classes of this enzyme including alpha-amylase, beta-amylase and gamma-amylase. However, alpha-amylase is the most active [1].

Bromelain: Bromelain is not a human enzyme. Rather, it is a mixture of proteolytic (protein degrading) enzymes found in large quantities in the juice and stems of pineapples. It was discovered and isolated in 1891 the late 1800s by the Venezuelan chemist Vicente Marcano. The enzyme is an important immune modulator with anti-inflammatory properties. This means it can reduce inflammation resulting from injuries and infections [2].

Coenzyme Q10: Although classified under enzymes, this compound is more like a vitamin. It is found in all parts of the body, especially in the liver, heart, pancreas and the kidneys. Small quantities can also be obtained from seafood and certain meats. Coenzyme Q10 was first discovered and isolated by Professor Fredrick L. Crane and colleagues in 1957 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Enzyme Institute. It is a powerful antioxidant and also aids in metabolism [3].

Lactase: Lactase is an endogenous enzyme that breaks down a sugar named lactose found in milk and milk products. Everyone who consumes milk as an infant synthesizes the enzyme and those with it deficiency will suffer from milk intolerance. There is very little information as to the discovery and isolation of lactase but available evidence indicates that it was several thousands of years to help people with lactose intolerance consume milk [4].

Protease: Protease is a class of enzymes that begin the process of breaking down protein molecules into amino acids. Amino acids are vital structural elements of all the cells of the body. There are six classes of proteases based on the catalytic residue they use. Proteases as well as other proteolytic enzymes were discovered and isolated by William Beaumont “Father of Gastric Physiology” in early 1800s as he researched on human digestion [5].

Lipase: Claude Bernard realized that a pancreatic secretion could saponify and emulsify fatty substances, in 1848,. He would eventually attribute these reactions to an enzyme that was later named pancreatic lipase. It is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of fat/lipids in food so that the body can assimilate it for use in cell membrane synthesis, deposit in adipose tissue as well as other functions. It is produced by pancreas and in the mouth and stomach in small quantities. Deficiency of this enzyme can cause a lot of diseases [6].

Maltase: Maltase is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of disaccharide called maltose into simple sugars that can be used directly by the body. This means it comes right after amylase. The discovery date of this enzyme is not clear but available evidence indicates its isolation and testing relates to Robert Kohler in 1898. He only confirmed that maltase could actually synthesize maltose from glucose units but the first known use was in 1890 [7].

References

  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003464.htm and http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Amylase.html
  2. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/bromelain and http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=146651
  3. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/938.html and http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/coenzyme-q10
  4. http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/070401_lactose
  5. http://www.enzymeessentials.com/HTML/protease.html
  6. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/lipase
  7. http://worldofenzymes.info/enzymes-introduction/maltase/2/