Your guide to calcium 101
Most people probably think of calcium as the vitamin you get from drinking milk. But did you know that not only is calcium found in a wide variety of other foods, but that it’s technically not even a vitamin?
In fact, calcium is a mineral: an inorganic element that exists in soil and water and gets absorbed by plants and animals, largely through their food. (This is in contrast to organic vitamins, which are created by plants, animals, and people – like how our bodies naturally produce vitamin D in response to sun exposure.)
Still, while it may be ‘inorganic,’ calcium is just as important to your physical health as all the organic vitamins your body creates and absorbs. Read on to find out why!
What does calcium do for the body?
It’s arguably more important to watch your calcium intake than your intake of organic vitamins, because your body can’t create calcium on its own – and because calcium plays a crucial role in several bodily structures and functions.
One of the best-known benefits of calcium is stronger bones and teeth. These building blocks of your body require a steady intake of minerals, particularly as you get older, and bones begin to lose their mineral content. Essential minerals for bones and teeth include magnesium, phosphorus, and of course, calcium.
To break it down even further: your bones are approximately 65% mineral (mainly calcium and phosphorus), the enamel of your teeth is around 95% mineral (again, mostly calcium and phosphorus), and the middle dentin of your teeth is about 70% mineral content.
If you want to maintain good bones and teeth – and prevent issues like tooth decay and osteoporosis – you need to have a decent calcium intake. And calcium isn’t just for the mineralised parts of your body, either!
Other benefits of calcium include:
• More effective blood clotting
• Smoother muscle contractions
• Improved nerve function
• Regular heart activity
How much calcium do you need?
The amount of calcium you need depends on your previous bone health, age, and any related physical condition(s). That said, there are some widely agreed-upon guidelines for different groups. As a baseline, most adults need around 700 mg of calcium each day. For context, that’s about 2 servings of calcium-rich food/drink per day.
People who are slightly younger and older than this range, as well as breastfeeding women, require a bit more calcium per day. Here’s how much calcium each age group should be getting per day, according to the NHS & Royal Osteoporosis Society:
• Up to one year: 525 mg calcium per day
• One to three years: 350 mg calcium per day
• Four to six years: 450 mg calcium per day
• Seven to ten years: 550 mg calcium per day
• Boys 11 to 18 years: 1,000 mg calcium per day
• Girls 11 to 18 years: 800 mg calcium per day
• 19-64 years (men & women): 700 mg to 1,000 mg calcium per day
• Breastfeeding women: 1,250 mg calcium per day
Should you take calcium supplements?
Calcium supplements can be incredibly beneficial – even life-changing! – for those who don’t absorb enough calcium.
You’ll want to check on your exact calcium levels if you suspect you’re deficient, but here are a few groups at high risk of not getting enough calcium from their food and drink:
🥛 Lactose intolerant people
❌ Anyone else who does not consume dairy products.
🤰 Women who are pregnant – as pregnancy requires calcium to build the baby’s bones, teeth, and other bodily functions.
🦴 Those with a genetic predisposition to osteoporosis – again, mainly older women, who tend to experience mineral loss after menopause.
And what about the symptoms of calcium deficiency? Besides bone loss, here are some signs of lower calcium levels to help you catch calcium deficiency early on:
• Muscle cramps & spasms
• Numbness and tingling in the extremities (hands & feet)
• Brittle nails and/or nails with excessive white spots
• Slower hair growth and more fragile skin
• Confusion, memory loss, and even hallucinations
If you exhibit any of these symptoms – particularly if you’re a member of one of those at-risk groups or age ranges – you may need calcium supplements.
Ask your doctor to be sure; indeed, those with more severe symptoms like spasms, numbness, and memory loss simply cannot afford to wait.
Taking calcium for maximum absorption
Remember how we said that calcium isn’t a vitamin, but rather a mineral? Because of this, the best way to consume calcium is together with vitamin D. The presence of vitamin D ‘activates’ calcium transport proteins in the body, facilitating more calcium absorption in the gut – exactly where you need it.
So what you really want is calcium combined with vitamin D. At SunVit-D3, we offer a number of different calcium concentrations that have been produced with vitamin D3 for optimal absorption. All of our calcium supplements are chewable or dissolvable, with delicious flavours like orange, lemon, and tutti frutti on offer today.
Finally, you might be wondering: how long will this take to work?
The great thing about taking calcium with vitamin D, as noted, is that your digestive tract will absorb it right away. Though your body can only effectively take in 500 mg of calcium at a time, those looking to get 1,000+ mg/day from supplements can simply take one tablet in the morning and another at night.
In terms of noticeable health impact, it will take at least a few weeks for you to see results from calcium supplements. But if you keep up a steady routine, your mineral build-up will only get better, your bones stronger, and your vitality greater over time.