Healing Kitchen

Calcium-Powered Bones and More
About 99% of the 2 1/2 pounds of calcium in our bodies is found in our bones. Not surprisingly, the mineral is often acclaimed for its role in maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. The remaining 1% of calcium that circulates in our blood keeps the heart beating, nourishes nerves, and aids normal blood clotting. Calcium can also help ease or prevent many serious ailments and everyday complaints.

PMS Relief
According to a recent study, calcium might be the magic bullet that eliminates the irritability, food cravings, cramps, and other discomforts that some women experience right before their periods. Researchers at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York gave more than 700 women with PMS either 1,200 mg of calcium carbonate or a placebo each day for three months. Women taking calcium had 48% fewer symptoms, compared with a 30% reduction in the placebo group (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 8/98).

Weight Loss
A high-calcium diet may help the body maintain a healthy weight, at least among college-age women who routinely eat fewer than 1,900 calories daily (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting, April, 1999). Among these women, those who got at least 780 mg of calcium daily showed no increase in body fat during the two years of the study, and those who got at least 1,000 mg of calcium a day actually lost about six pounds. Women eating the same number of calories but little calcium had increases in body fat. Further study to clarify the possible link between calcium intake and weight loss is needed.

Heart Attack Prevention
Some studies suggest that calcium helps keep blood pressure in check, but it also may prevent heart attacks in a more direct way. One study in the American Journal of Epidemiology (1/15/99) involving more than 34,000 women ages 55 to 69 showed that those who consumed the most calcium (about 1,200 mg a day and up) cut their risk of fatal heart disease by a third compared with those who consumed the least (less than 500 mg a day).

Cancer Fighter
Calcium may play a role in preventing some types of colon cancer. In a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (9/23/98), men and women who tended to develop precancerous polyps in the colon produced fewer of them when they upped their calcium intake to about 1,500 mg a day. Another study, in the New England Journal of Medicine (1/14/99), found that a daily 1,200 mg dose of calcium supplements cut the recurrence rate of polyps by 19% and reduced the number of polyps by 24%.

Can I Take a Pill?
Many researchers believe it doesn't matter whether calcium comes from foods or supplements, as long as you get enough of the mineral--about 1,200 mg a day. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are probably the best types of calcium to take in supplement form because they are readily absorbed. If you opt for calcium supplements, take no more than 500 mg at a time--the body can't absorb more than that in one sitting.

Author: the WholeHealthMD Advisor
Date Published: 03/10/2000
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