Calcium is one of the most important nutrients in the body. It plays a key role in neurotransmitter release at the end of action potentials, the allowance of muscle contraction at the sarcomere level, and is a major building block for the bones. Calcium does a lot! Because calcium is one of the most important molecules in our body, ensuring that we have enough to function is an important feat.
One way that people ensure this is through calcium supplementation. In this article we will be taking a look at key concerns of calcium supplementation and possible next steps.
Bones are the body’s calcium storage system, and bones rely on having substantial calcium stores to ensure they can bear the weight of the rest of the body. When the calcium stores of the body become depleted then a person can develop bone issues.
The prevention of bone issues is actually the most valid claim when it comes to advocating for a calcium supplement. When calcium intake, through the diet or by supplementation, is low then the parathyroid is activated and sends chemical messengers throughout the body. These hormones help increase the uptake of calcium from the diet, prevent calcium from being excreted in the urine, and begin to break down the bones to supply the calcium.
Keeping blood calcium at optimum levels is important because without it the nervous system and muscles, including the heart, wouldn’t be able to work, so the body gladly breaks down the bone and does other things to ensure that more calcium is being brought into the bloodstream.
Typically women are the ones who struggle most with bone issues due to hormone changes over their lifetime. Their hormones set them up to have lower overall bone density. Pregnancy and menopause cause extreme hormone changes that can contribute to bone density loss. It is estimated that of all of the people diagnosed with bone issues 80% are women.
But, taking calcium isn’t the only way to hedge your bets against bone loss. Incorporating a supplement of microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate is a great way to encourage bone growth. This compound is made up of many of the different elements that your body uses to make bones, not just calcium.
Vitamins D3 and K2 are vitally important to making sure that calcium in the blood can actually be put into storage and build up the bones. Without these vitamins then calcium will just roam free in the bloodstream.
Bones are constantly in flux, being built up and broken down. Taking advantage of the parathyroid's response to low calcium to encourage more calcium uptake is a great way to help build bones as well. Building up the bones so much can help increase this. The question then is whether or not there are any factors that can encourage bone growth besides calcium and vitamin levels. And, there is: Exercise.
Exercise, specifically weight bearing exercise, can increase your bone density. Your bones are actually living tissues with cells that move and change all the time, and just like your muscles they respond to stressful stimuli with growth. Weight bearing exercises require you to do work against gravity this can be through resistance training, with weights or bands, but through other exercises also, such as pushups, jogging, hiking, dancing, pullups, and various cathethetics.
People often have concerns about the effects of taking calcium on their heart. These concerns are completely valid since coronary artery calcification is the leading cause of heart disease and heart attack in the developed world. People think that if they take a calcium supplement that the extra calcium will end up in their arteries instead of their bones.
When we consume food, it is digested by our body and put into the bloodstream. Then the signaling molecules, like insulin, are responsible for moving the nutrients out of the bloodstream and into the cells.
When the body begins not to respond to insulin, it has trouble putting the sugar into the cells. As a result, the sugar stays in the bloodstream much longer, raising your blood sugar levels, leading to diabetes.
Lack of metabolic function can make your blood vessels very sugar-saturated and sticky, which allow oxidized fats to pass through the endothelium. Lymphocytes, white blood cells, do not want these oxidized molecules to enter the body since they can react with various molecules and cause plenty of damage, so they consume these oxidized fats to protect the body and become foam cells.
Foam cells will consume oxidized fats until they explode. When they explode, the body recruits more white blood cells to the site, causing inflammation, and then the body lays a layer of calcium over those fats to prevent them from reaching the rest of the body. This calcium walled pocket of toxic fats is called plaque.
Monitoring how much calcium has been deposited in your blood vessels can be judged through tests like blood pressure, since these calcium deposits can make the blood vessel smaller in certain locations, which produces more force on the outside wall.
This calcification causes arteries and heart valves to get very stiff, and it is one of the biggest causes of chronic high blood pressure and heart issues.
To recap, in order for calcium deposits to develop in the blood vessels the blood needs to have a high sugar content, which is present in longer periods for people with metabolic issues, the blood need to have oxidized fats, which are generally the result of engorged adipose (fat) tissue found in the abdomen and oxidative stress, and the last qualification is to have calcium in the blood, which from the mechanism on bones we know will be happening no matter what.
This means that the concern for calcium build up in the blood vessels due to calcium supplementation is somewhat unwarranted. There have been some meta-analyses that have found a correlation between calcium supplementation and deposits in the arteries.. Also active reduction in serum calcium levels through supplementation with vitamins D3 and K2 can reduce the risk of this mechanism from taking place according to several studies.
The Bottom Line
Taking a calcium gummy is an important step for ensuring the longevity of your bones, especially for women. While there may be some concerns about the impact of taking a calcium gummy on heart health these concerns are mostly unwarranted and will only affect a very select group of individuals.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.