Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Q Are There Any Risks Associated with Calcium Intake?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Q Are There Any Risks Associated with Calcium Intake?

Article excerpt

A In the United States, the intake of calcium is heavily promoted by health- care professionals and manufacturers, mainly for the prevention of bone deformities such as osteoporosis. Indeed, calcium has several critical roles within the human body. It regulates muscle contraction and relaxation; activates several enzymes, such as pancreatic enzymes; increases cell membrane permeability; and aids in vitamin B12 absorption. In addition, calcium has recently been shown to reduce the risk of developing new colorectal polyps. Calcium may also lead to a small reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Calcium is the most abundant element found in the human body, with the highest concentrations being in the skeletal system. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium for men 25 years of age or older is 800 mg; it is even higher for women. Major dietary sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products, and adults can easily meet calcium RDA levels by incorporating these products into their diet.

In addition, many forms of calcium supplements are available in the market. These include the carbonate (40% calcium), citrate and lactate (21% calcium), gluconate (9% calcium), and phosphate (23%-39% calcium) salts. Although calcium is a necessary element, high intake of calcium may be harmful. The intake of large amounts of calcium may result in high urine calcium levels and renal stones, which can lead to renal damage. Hypercalcemia can also result in an increased deposition of calcium in soft tissue. In addition, hypercalcemia may be associated with anorexia, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and polyuria. Furthermore, controversy surrounds the use of calcium because of the risk it may pose for men. According to a recent report in the journal Cancer Research, there appears to be a direct relationship between calcium intake and prostate cancer in men.

The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study evaluated the incidence of prostate cancer, one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in men, between the years 1986 and 1994. The study showed that men receiving two (the amount of calcium found in two glasses of milk) or more times the RDA of calcium had nearly twice the risk of developing prostate cancer. …

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