08 July, 2011
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What Does Calcium Do for the Body?
Many people fall short of the 1,000 milligrams of calcium they need daily, despite the mineral's importance in the body. In fact, the average woman consumes only slightly more than half of her daily requirement, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Incorporate calcium-rich foods -- including dairy products, dark leafy greens and beans -- into your diet, and you'll reap the many health benefits associated with healthy calcium levels.
Maintains Strong Bones and Teeth
Calcium's best-known role is in bone and tooth health. It forms a part of hydroxyapatite, the mineral complex that makes your bones and teeth hard and maintains bone density. Without hydroxyapatite, your bones would become soft and pliable, and a lack of bone density makes your bones susceptible to breaking. Regularly getting enough calcium in your diet helps ensure that your body can access all the calcium it needs to synthesize new bone tissue, to keep your bones dense and strong and to prevent bone diseases, such as osteoarthritis.
Supports Muscle and Nerve Function
Calcium plays a central role in the function of your nervous system, as well as your muscles. The calcium in your brain helps control the release of neurotransmitters -- chemicals that interact with, and activate, nerve cells. If your nerves can't access the calcium they need, they can't send chemical signals to each other, which disrupts their function. Calcium helps your muscles contract in response to nerve stimulation. It also activates a protein, called calmodulin, that your muscle cells need to provide the fuel they need to function.
Facilitates Cell Communication
The calcium in your body also aids in other types of cell communication. It acts as a "second messenger" in your cells, which means that it responds to chemical signals from outside your cells and then triggers a response inside your cell. Calcium signalling plays a role in controlling blood vessel constriction and relaxation and also affects your body's blood sugar levels by controlling insulin secretion.
Meeting your daily calcium intake also promotes long-term health. In addition to reducing your risk of osteoporosis, calcium might play a role in fighting some types of colon cancer, and a calcium-rich diet may reduce colon cancer risk by 14 percent, explains the Linus Pauling Institute. Calcium also helps regulate your blood pressure levels, and consuming enough calcium might fight conditions associated with high blood pressure, such as pre-eclampsia, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- Maria Papadopoulos/Demand Media