By Jacob Gerdes, recent Arizona State University Nutrition Communications Student
We have been told from a young age about the importance of calcium in our diets. And now, many pass that same knowledge from their parents to their own children. But, are we continuing this tradition of mineral-based health knowledge while really understanding the reasons behind this so called important mineral?
We can all take comfort in the fact that calcium really is as important as our parents made it seem. The University of Maryland Medical Center discusses the importance of Calcium due to its abundance within the body; they list the functions of calcium in preventing many common health issues including:
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
- Obesity and Weight Loss
- High Cholesterol
Many people associate calcium with our bones and teeth. However, its relationship with our skeletal system is just one of the many uses of calcium in our body. Also, there are many contradictory studies, showing the insignificance between calcium consumption and bone density; these studies claim that weight-bearing exercise and Vitamin D are more important.
While Calcium supplementation’s prevention of bone fracture is widely debated, there are other studies examining unknown uses of calcium in the body. On April 3rd, 2016, the Department of Internal Medicine of Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul, South Korea published a 13-year long cohort study originally containing 4,589 men and 5,042 women of ages 40 and above. The study measured the effect of dietary intake of calcium on Cardiovascular disease, bone fracture, and stroke. Upon completion of the study period, 2,199 men and 2,704 women of the original participants were analyzed to measure the development of heart disease or if they suffered from bone fractures or a stroke, all which had not been experienced prior to beginning of the study by each individual. The results were inconclusive involving prevention of bone fracture and stroke, however, there was strong supporting evidence that high dietary calcium intake led to the decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
While this research is new to the science community, it goes to show the potential unknown influencing factors of different vitamins and minerals on disease and that just because we are raised to believe certain nutrients have a specific purpose doesn’t mean they can’t have alternately equal beneficial effects.
Calcium will always play a leading role in the series of stages our bodies experience throughout life. While that nutrition advice we were given as children may shift a little, understanding the broad differences in calcium use can help shift our perspective of other nutrients and their specific uses in general.
- Ehrlich S. Calcium. University of Maryland Medical Center. Last reviewed June 26, 2014. Accessed April 2016. URL: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/calcium
- Harvard Medical School. What you need to know about calcium. Harvard Health Publications. Last reviewed June 9, 2009. Accessed April 2016. URL: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what_you_need_to_know_about_calcium
- Endocrine Society. More dietary calcium may lower risk of cardiovascular disease: Diet change did not affect stroke or fracture risk. ScienceDaily. Accessed April 2016. URL: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160403152128.htm