Calcium: When You Take It, It Works



Calcium has been recommended and widely accepted as an essential mineral for bone and skeletal health and numerous body functions-regulating heartbeat, conducting nerve impulses, stimulating hormonal secretions and clotting the blood. Now, some conflicting and potentially misleading research is threatening to negate the efficacy of this vital mineral.

One factor that the study, published by the Women's Health Initiative, got right was that the government's recommended daily dosage is necessary to receive the benefits associated with calcium consumption and supplementation. Yet more than half of the study participants did not adhere to the recommended calcium supplementation, making improvements in bone density a nearly impossible result. Meanwhile, those that did comply experienced a whopping 29 percent lower risk of hip fractures.

Americans, both young and old, are failing to meet calcium intake requirements and the incidence of osteoporosis is climbing. During adolescent and teenage years, when 45 percent of bone mass is formed, meeting calcium requirements is essential. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, however, only 10 percent of teenage girls and 30 percent of teenage boys are meeting adequate calcium intake, which places them at serious risk for stunted growth, bone disease and, eventually, osteoporosis.

Calcium is available through dairy products and green, leafy vegetables-yet incorporating adequate amounts into a modern, hectic lifestyle, regardless of age, is often unrealistic. Calcium-fortified foods and supplements, however, can fill the gap.

"It's very important that people do take a supplement if they're not getting enough calcium in their diet," says Nicholina Galinsky, R.N. "Unfortunately, most of us are not aware that we have osteoporosis until we break a bone."

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