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    Calcium deficiency

    Calcium deficiency is a condition which arises due to decreased availability of calcium ions in the serum for normal metabolic activity in the humans. A total of 1000 to 2000 grams of calcium present in the average adult, more than 98% of it is in the skeleton.

    Calcium is essential mineral for the satisfactory growth and development. It is the chief mineral in bone and teeth. Vitamin-D helps in the absorption of dietary calcium in the intestinal tract.

    food sources of calcium
    Food sources of calcium.

    Functions of calcium in humans

    • Calcium is an essential anion regulating the functions of calcium channels at nerve-muscle junctions in the heart and skeletal muscles.

    • It, thus, plays a vital role in the normal muscle contraction, nervous signal transmission and clotting of blood (coagulation).

    • Mineralization of bone matrix necessitates adequate serum levels of calcium and phosphorus.

    • Calcium is the primary mineral in the tooth enamel which exists as hydroxyapatite (crystalline calcium phosphate).

    Recommended dietary allowances of calcium-

    Category Age Group RDA
    Infants 0-6 months 210 mg
    6-12 months 270 mg
    Children 1-3 years 500 mg
    Children 4-8 years 800 mg
    Teenagers 9-18 years 1300 mg
    Adults 19-50 years 1000 mg
    Adults-elderly 50 years and above 1200 mg
    Pregnant woman 1000 mg
    Lactating Mother 1000 mg

    What conditions cause calcium deficiency?

    Causes of poor intake and low absorption (bio-availability) of calcium:

    1. Low calcium diet, particularly those on low calorie diet tends to develop hyocalcemia.

    2. Diseases of parathyroid gland results in low parathormone secretion. Parathormone help in the absorption of calcium in the gut and increase calcium level in the serum.

    3. Fat malabsorption conditions affect vitamin D absorption in the intestines.

    4. Vitamin-D deficiency can precipitate low serum calcium levels and in severe cases may lead to hypocalcemic tetany.

    5. Phosphate in milk, and oxalates, and phytates in grains and vegetables decrease the absorption of calcium.

    6. The calcium to Phosphorus ratio of less than two as in cow's milk reduces calcium absorption. Thus, artificially fed babies are prone to calcium deficiency.

    7. Low Birth Weight (LBW) babies, pre-terms, infants of diabetes mothers and those with Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) are more prone to have hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia can lead to tetany (painful spasms of limbs and body parts) and convulsions.

    Signs and symptoms of calcium deficiency

    • Bone pain/backache

    • Painful spasms in hands (carpal spasm)

    • Painful spasms in legs (pedal spasm)

    • Abnormal touch senastion around mouth and in the limbs

    • Nervousness and anxiety

    • Difficulty in breathing

    • Tetany and colvulsions can occur in severe serum calcium deficiency

    Prolonged calcium deficiency makes the bones weak and vulnerable for fractures.

    Food sources of Calcium

    Milk and milk products and seafood are the richest sources of calcium in the nature. Milk calcium has the highest bio-availability, followed by seafood. Oysters, crab, fish, mutton, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, millets like ragi (finger millet -E. coracana) are rich sources of calcium.

    Refer the table for food sources of calcium- ≻≻

    See the table below for in depth analysis:

    Calcium value per 100 g of food.

    (Source: USDA National Nutrient database)
    Food source Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
    Animal sources
    Beef, flank, 0 fat 25 mg 2.5%
    Bison, game meat, raw 5 mg 0.5%
    Cheese, parmesan 1253 mg 125%
    Chicken, broiler, raw 17 mg 1.7%
    Egg, whole, raw 56 mg 5.6%
    Lamb, lean meat 19 mg 1.9%
    Milk (Indian buffelo) 169 mg 17%
    Whey 2094 mg 209%
    Fish, Herring, Pacific 83 mg 8%
    Spiny lobster, cooked 7.27 mg 66%
    Octopus, common, raw 53 mg 5%
    Oyester, farmed 44 mg 4.4%
    Plant sources
    Apricot, dehydrated 61 mg 6%
    Currants, zante, dried 86 mg 8.6%
    Figs, raw 35 mg 3.5%
    Arugula, raw 160 mg 16%
    Beet greens, raw 117 mg 12%
    Garlic, raw 181 mg 18%
    Soybeans, green, raw 197 mg 20%
    Spinach, raw 99 mg 10%
    Nuts and seeds
    Almonds, dry roasted 268 mg 27%
    Lotus seeds, dried 163 mg 16%
    Hazel nuts 114 mg 11%
    Sunflower seeds, toasted 57 mg 6%

    Calcium Supplements

    Calcium tablets

    Calcium salts such as calcium carbonate, chloride, citrate, acetate, gluconate, etc., available in formulations from infants to adults to treat calcium deficiany after physician consultation. Calcium chloride has better bio-availability among these supplements.

    Apart from prophylaxis, the supplements often advocated to treat osteopenia/osteoporosis, menorrhagia and pre-menstrual syndromes, and post-surgical conditions.

    Health risks of excessive calcium intake

    Excessive intake of calcium supplements may lead to ectopic deposition of calciuum salts inside the blood vessels, brain, and eye-lens, and in the kidneys may lead to the formation of kidney stones. However, calcium supplied in the diet do not attribute to any complications. High serum calcium levels occur in hypercalcemia conditions. It is also noted with vitamin-D intoxicity. The condition can leads to constipation, interfers with the absorption of iron, zinc, and coppe. (Medical disclaimer).

    <<-Read on Essential fatty acids.

    <<-Read Iron deficiency anemia.

    <<-Back to Nutrition articles from Calcium deficiency.

    Further reading and References:

    1. Calcium-Health Professional Fact Sheet.-Zinc Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet.

    2. USDA Food Composition Dtabases.

    3. FAO Corporate document repositary-Calcium.

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