Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium is found in many foods and is widely available as a dietary supplement. Less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support critical metabolic functions and this calcium is very tightly regulated and does not fluctuate with changes in dietary intake. The body uses bone tissue as a reservoir for a constant concentration of calcium. The remaining 99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth. Bone is constantly consumed and made. The balance between bone resorption and deposition changes with age, but with age the deposition can slow down leading to bone density loss.
Each day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat and excretion. So every day we must replenish our body’s supply. Even if you consume plenty of dairy of dairy products, you may not be absorbing enough calcium due to low levels of Vitamin D and other essential nutrients. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich natural sources of calcium and are the major food contributors. Non-dairy sources include vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Spinach provides calcium, but its bioavailability is poor (For example, phytic acid and oxalic acid in plants form complexes with calcium and impede its absorption).
- Whey Protein (100 grams): 600mg (65% of RDA)
- Sardines (1 can): 350mg (35% of RDA)
- Cow and goat milk (1 cup): 330mg (33% of RDA)
- Yogurt (1 cup): 200mg (20% RDA)
The RDA for calcium is around 1000mg (1g) per day. This is pretty easy to obtain from food (a yogurt and a pint of milk, or 100g of cheese). Excess calcium simply passes through the body in urine and stools.
Where should calcium go?
Calcium does not just go into bone and teeth. It also finds its way into soft tissue such as arteries, Doctors call it 'Extra-skeletal calcification'. The most dangerous calcium deposits are in the arteries and the heart.
Vitamin K2 & vitamin D work together to help absorb and transport calcium to the correct places on the body. Most people know the benefits of Vitamin D, but many don’t know the role Vitamin K2 has. Vitamin K2 seems to define where calcium should and shouldn't go in the body. You need calcium to go to your bones and teeth and not to calcify the arteries (arterial plaque). Osteocalcin is a protein hormone found in bone and teeth. Its synthesis is vitamin K2 dependent. Osteocalcin is released by osteoblasts (cells that make bone) and binds with the bone matrix. Studies conclude that a lack of vitamin K2 leads to age-related bone loss. Osteocalcin was the first protein to be identified as bone specific. Osteocalcin also acts like a hormone on many tissues to improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose. Vitamin K2 is can prevent and reverse calcified arteries, see our guide on vitamin K2.
Getting enough vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and also helps the kidneys break down and incorporate calcium that would otherwise be excreted. Vitamin D is found in eggs, butter, fatty fish, liver (and made from sunlight).
The parathyroid glands are four small glands next to the thyroid that secretes parathyroid hormone (PTH) to regulate the calcium level in our bodies. The parathyroid essentially helps the nervous and muscular systems function properly. Calcium is the primary element that causes muscles to contract. The levels of blood calcium are constantly monitored by a protein expressed by parathyroid cells. Persistent excess production of PTH by one or more parathyroid glands may lead to the development of a high level of blood calcium (with calcium being withdrawn from bones). PTH increases the formation of vitamin D which increases intestinal calcium and phosphorus absorption.
Calcium can’t act alone. It needs magnesium. We already know that calcium protects and keeps bones and teeth healthy. But without magnesium, the body cannot:
- Adequately absorb calcium.
- Stimulate calcitonin, a hormone that draws calcium from the blood and tissues back into the bones.
- Suppress parathyroid, another hormone that breaks down bone.
- Convert vitamin D into its active form for calcium absorption.
- Activate an enzyme required for new bone to form.
- Regulate calcium transport.
Even a mild deficiency in magnesium can radically affect bone health.
The CAC test - Coronary artery calcium test
Most people have no prior warning that there is anything wrong with their heart or that they have any type of heart disease. The deaths of seemingly fit and healthy people from of a heart attack at a young age does make you think. The coronary artery calcium (CAC) test is the best predictive test for heart disease risk. Cholesterol levels, salt intake, fat intake bare little relationship to seeing if you're going to suffer a heart attack.
Common health checks for blood pressure and cholesterol are not the best predictors of heart attacks. The CAC test is better at identifying the narrowing of arteries than other heart checks offered to patients.
The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand's cite that "CAC scoring is a robust and reproducible way of detecting coronary atherosclerosis and to estimate future risk of cardiac events. It has incremental benefits beyond traditional risk prediction tools and biomarkers". Calcium deposits can be found on the walls of the coronary arteries, heart valve, or pericardium.
A coronary calcium scan takes only a few minutes; using a high-speed gated computerized tomography scanner. It enables the acquisition of 100+ slices without the need for a coronary angiography. It provides high-resolution images of the beating heart at a fast scanning speed. Even a small amount of calcification on the coronary artery walls can be detected to help identify the risk of developing coronary artery disease. With this technique, the amount of calcification is measured. A newborn with normal artery scores 0. Age may associate with higher calcium levels, but should be in the range of 200 – 400. People with a calcium score of over 400 are at higher risk.
The body requires boron for proper metabolism and utilisation of various bone-building factors, including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, estrogen and testosterone. Boron keeps your bone and teeth structure strong by adding to bone density, preventing osteoporosis and treating conditions like arthritis. Boron is found in a few foods and it's often paired with calcium in some supplements, but the cheapest way to get a theraputic dose of boron is to use borax.