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Health Topics     April 25, 2013
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Calcium serves a number of functions in the body. It maintains firm bones and teeth. More than 90% of calcium in the body is stored in these two structures.

Calcium also prevents muscle tissue from overacting and going into spasm. Because of its function, calcium is often mistakenly recommended to treat muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are rarely caused by calcium deficiency. However, calcium consumption helps relieve muscle cramps due to other causes than calcium deficiency.

Calcium Deficiency:

Low levels of calcium in the blood present with serious symptoms long before muscle cramps develop. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include inability to clot the blood, inability to transmit nerve impulses, convulsive seizures, and failure of certain enzyme systems. Associated with its nerve transmission function, calcium is also involved in regulating the heartbeat.

Calcium and phosphorus have a see-saw relationship with each other - when one is high, the other is low. Therefore, overeating of calcium can cause the essential mineral phosphorus to be seriously depressed. Conversely, overeating of such foods as bran and cow's milk, which are high in phosphorus, can upset the balance of calcium in the body.

High protein diets tend to cause a greater excretion of calcium in the urine. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet triggers a mechanism for loss of calcium from bone.

Calcium Overdose:
Most people are unaware that calcium, protein and vitamin D are toxic in excess. Because calcium is toxic to the body in over-dosage, the body has a mechanism that prevents its over-absorption. Only 20 to 30 percent of calcium ingested from food is usually absorbed. Studies suggest that individuals who ingest low levels of calcium tend to utilize it more fully and less must be excreted.

Many nutritionists feel that a baby's diet should be supplemented with calcium to obtain the same quantity of calcium from cow's milk. Comparing human breast milk with whole, fresh cow's milk can serve as an index for the natural amount of calcium that may be needed by the body. Human breast milk contains 80 milligrams of calcium per cup whereas cow's milk contains 288 milligrams per cup.

Some nutritionists adhere to the logic that the natural amount of calcium that the human baby needs is provided in breast milk and that no attempt at supplementation should be made.

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