Glossary Detail

Detailview for term

name of the term: Calcium

Short introduction

  • Calcium (symbol: Ca) is the most abundant mineral in the human body.
  • About 99% of the calcium in the body is found in bones and teeth and the other 1% in blood and (muscle) cells.

Main natural sources

  • Rich sources e.g.: milk, (frozen) yoghurt and (cottage) cheese.
  • Other sources: canned sardines and salmon (with bones), collard greens, broccoli, calcium-set tofu. Bread and cereals contain lower amounts of calcium.

Main function

  • Forms the structure of bones and teeth. When calcium combines with phosphorus, they form a structure called hydroxyapatite. This structure provides bones and teeth their strength.
  • Vitamin D is essential for efficient calcium utilisation in the body: important for bone mineralisation (skeletal integrity) and teeth function.
  • Role in maintaining muscle strength and muscle contraction.
  • Required for proper functioning of many different enzymes.
  • Involved in blood clotting. Calcium works together with e.g. vitamin K in the clotting cascade.
  • Normal heart rhythm.

Disease caused by deficiency or excess

  • Hypocalcaemia (low blood calcium): may result from a problem with the parathyroid glands (located in the neck and producing hormones that regulate calcium in blood and within bones), dietary habits or kidney disorders. Symptoms e.g.: muscle cramps, depression, forgetfulness, tingling lips, fingers and feet and painful muscles.
  • Dietary calcium is important in building bone mass in children as well as in preventing osteoporosis in adulthood and elderly (weak, brittle bones – risk for fractures).
  • Dairy foods can be a good source of bone-supportive nutrients (e.g. calcium). However, during the most critical period for peak bone mass development, adolescents (high income countries) tend to replace milk with soft drinks.
  • Low calcium intake has been identified as a potential contributing factor to obesity.
  • Hypercalcaemia (high blood calcium): may result from a problem with the parathyroid glands, dietary habits, cancer, or disorders affecting bone. Symptoms e.g.: digestive problems, frequent urination, high blood pressure and eventually confusion and coma.
  • Calcium, like potassium, may prevent/lower high blood pressure.

Recommended daily intake

Latest Dietary Reference Intakes  (DRIs) 
Institute of Medicine (IOM)

Age categoryPer day
Pregnancy
14 – 18 years
19 – 50 years
1300 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
Lactation
14 – 18 years
19 – 50 years
1300 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
Infants 6 – 12 months260 mg (AI)
Children
 1 – 3 years
 4 – 8 years
700 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
Males
 9 – 13 years
14 – 18 years
19 – 30 years
31 – 50 years
50 – 70 years
> 70 years
1300 mg (RDA)
1300 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
1200 mg (RDA)
1200 mg (RDA)
Females
 9 – 13 years
14 – 18 years
19 – 30 years
31 – 50 years
50 – 70 years
> 70 years
1300 mg (RDA)
1300 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
1000 mg (RDA)
1200 mg (RDA)
1200 mg (RDA)

 

AI = Adequate Intake.
RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowance.

Synonyms: Calcium

Back to list