Calcium is the essential micronutrient found in the body. It is commonly stored in teeth and bones and gives the body a strong framework. Apart from this it carries out very important functions like muscle movement and transmits a signal between the brain and other parts of the body. Calcium deficiency can cause several health conditions that may be fatal in long-term deficiency (1).
What is Calcium Deficiency?
Calcium deficiency is a health condition caused by the long-term inadequacy of calcium in the human body. It may be caused by inadequate intake of calcium-rich diet or presence of pre-existing health condition like GI disorders, Vitamin D deficiency, hormonal change, genetic elements, and medications which affect the balance of calcium (2).
Functions of Calcium
Calcium plays a very important role in maintaining strong bone and teeth structure. It also acts as neurotransmitters and helps maintain healthy heart and muscle functions.
Causes of Calcium Deficiency
The condition of low calcium content can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause has been illustrated below:
- Inadequate Diet: The most common cause of calcium deficiency across the globe is our eating habits. We often consume foods that are poor in nutrients such as calcium.
- Unavailability of Nutritious Food: Soil composition varies from place to place. Calcium deficient soil can’t produce calcium-rich grains, fruit, and vegetables.
- GI Disorders: Malabsorption of calcium due to several underlying health conditions affects the overall calcium balance in the body. Gastrointestinal disorders affect the ability of internal organs to absorb essential nutrients.
- Vitamin D: The absorption of calcium in the body depends upon the adequacy of vitamin D. In absence of vitamin D our body can’t absorb calcium and leads to hypocalcemia (3).
- Elevated Requirement: Pregnant women need higher calcium than normal. During the foetus development, the calcium requirements get elevated which may cause a deficiency in pregnant mothers.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
The common symptoms of calcium deficiency include (4):
- Muscle spasm
- Muscle cramp
- Memory loss
- Bone loss
- Tooth decay
- Dry and itchy nail and skin
- Painful premenstrual syndrome
Health Risks due to Hypocalcemia
- Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD): Calcium is very important in maintaining muscular health and its movement. Its deficiency can cause palpitations and in extreme cases heart failure.
- Tooth Decay: Calcium in association with fluoride protects our teeth. Calcium deficiency results in tooth decay and severe case it may lead to large cavities.
- Osteoporosis: Severe calcium deficiency compromises bone health and makes it susceptible to fractures or breaks even you sneeze. In this condition, the individual loses a lot of bone and makes it porous.
- Seizures: Seizures are sudden electrical impulse in the brain, it affects movement, feelings, and the level of consciousness. It is caused by the presence of a low amount of calcium in our system.
Some other health risks associated with calcium deficiencies are hormonal imbalance, osteopenia, depression, and prenatal complications.
Tests for Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is very abundant in our bodies. However, 99% of the calcium is found in bone and teeth and a very small quantity of calcium is present in the blood. A blood test is required to ascertain the amount of calcium in our blood.
- Calcium Blood Test: A blood test is carried out to see the calcium amount in our blood. It measures the free calcium and calcium ion along with albumin level. Albumin is the protein responsible for the transportation of calcium in our system.
- Microscopic Diagnosis: Calcium deficiency syndromes like osteoporosis are identified under the microscope. It this diagnosis, we identify the honeycomb structure of porous bone. The degree of porosity indicates the severity of osteoporosis.
If you have health conditions that may cause deficiency, doctors may advise for electrolyte, blood test, microscopic tests, bone densitometry in extreme cases.
Remedies of Calcium Deficiency
- Calcium Supplements: If you are diagnosed with severe calcium deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under the supervision of doctors. As higher calcium may lead to a deadly health conditions, like stone and artery calcification.
- Calcium-Rich Diet: Calcium-rich food items will help in minimizing calcium deficiency. Some of the calcium-rich food items are milk, cheese, leafy veggies, soybeans, tofu, sardines, and pilchards.
- Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which will serve nutrient-deficient food produces. Fortified seeds will help in providing nutrient-rich agricultural produce.
- Vitamin D: To overcome calcium deficiency, we need to maintain the required amount of vitamin D level in our bodies. It helps in the absorption of calcium in the body. Some of the Vitamin D-rich food items are salmon, tuna, mackerel, sunlight, fish oil, milk, and cheese.
- Sunlight: Sunlight is a rich source of vitamin D; on average one should be exposed at least 15-30 min to the sunlight to maintain adequate vitamin D level.
Prevention of Calcium Deficiency
It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true about micronutrient deficiencies. Calcium deficiency can be prevented through the consumption of a calcium-rich diet.
Food items rich in calcium:
- Leafy veggies
- Cottage Cheese
- Fortified food items
Food items rich in Vitamin D:
- Fish oil
Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):
A simple way to prevent calcium deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The recommended daily intake of calcium for an adult is 2000-2500 mg.
Calcium is a very important mineral for maintaining muscle, bone, and teeth health. A severe case of hypocalcemia may cause seizures, cardiovascular failure, and osteoporosis.
Although calcium deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming an adequate amount of calcium as per RDA through various calcium-rich diets.