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Organic Consumers Association

Benefits of Vegetable-Based Calcium

  • By Scott Treadway, Ph.D.
    Organic Consumers Association, 3/7/2007

Calcium is responsible for construction, formation and maintenance of bone and teeth.
This function helps reduce the occurrence of osteoporosis. It is also a vital component in
blood clotting systems and wound healing. It helps to control blood pressure, nerve
transmission, and release of neurotransmitters. It’s an essential component in the
production of enzymes and hormones regulating digestion, energy and fat metabolism. It
helps transport ions (electrically charged particles) across the cell membranes and is
essential for muscle contraction. Calcium assists in maintaining all cells and connective
tissues in the body.

If the body needs more calcium than is supplied by the diet, it withdraws it from the
bones, resulting in such conditions as osteoporosis. Foods that contain oxalic acid, such
as spinach and rhubarb, can prevent the absorption of calcium. The consumption of meat
and non-organic and processed dairy products has been shown to rob the minerals from
bones, thereby weakening them and subjecting them to many diseases and conditions
from fractures, to arthritis to osteoporosis.

Supplements are used to treat muscle cramps and problems of the back and bones related
to improper living, such as arthritis, rheumatism and osteoporosis (the loss of bony tissue
that results in brittle bones, particularly prevalent among post-menopausal women).
Calcium deficiency often follows vitamin D deficiencies and can lead to rickets in
children. Typical symptoms of rickets are bow legs, knock-knees and pigeon chests,
caused by softening of the bones. In adults calcium deficiency can cause Osteomalacia,
characterized by aching bones, muscle spasms and curvature of the spine.

Most calcium supplementation today are derived from calcium carbonate, which is found
in chalk, oyster shells, coral rock sediments, egg shells and other in-organic sediments
and non-living mineral sources. Calcium from these sources are not organic, naturally occurring food ingredients and thus do not fulfill nutritional needs.

The best source of calcium supplementation is vegetable sources that absorb well. In
fact, it is hard to find a real and substantial vegetable source of vegetable calcium
supplementation derived from food.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. The average male has about three
pounds of calcium, the average female, about two pounds. Most (99%) of calcium is
found in bones and teeth (National Research Council, 1989; Whitney et al, 1996) with the
remaining one percent in the soft tissues and watery parts of the body where calcium
helps to regulate normal organ processes. (Whitney et al, 1996).

The body can borrow from the skeletal stores when blood calcium levels drop and return
calcium to bones as needed. A constant supply of calcium is necessary throughout our
lifetime, but is especially important during phases of growth, pregnancy and lactation
(breast feeding). About 10-40% of dietary calcium is absorbed in the small intestine
(Somer, 1995; Mahan et al, 1996).

The level of calcium absorption from dietary sources drops in post-menopausal women.
The body will absorb more calcium if there is a deficiency.

Factors that improve calcium absorption include adequate amounts of protein,
magnesium, phosphorous and Vitamin D. Conditions that reduce calcium absorption
include high or excessive intakes of oxalates and phytates, found in foods such as
spinach. Consumption of alcohol, coffee, sugar, or medications such as diuretics,
tetracycline, aluminum containing antacids, and stress reduces absorption of calcium and
other minerals.

Lack of exercise reduces calcium absorption as well as causes an increase in calcium
losses. A lifestyle of immobility also leads to calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency
increases risk of bone disorders such as osteoporosis. (Calcium Functions: National
Research Council, Sourer, 1995; Whitney et al, 1996; Sizer et al, 1997.)
Calcium may help to prevent periodontal disease (gum disease). Calcium Deficiency (
Article, National Research Council, Sourer, 1995, McCarron et al, 1987; McCarron et al,
1991 .

NATURALLY-OCCURRING FOOD SOURCES OF CALCIUM
Good sources of naturally occurring vegetable calcium are available from food sources
such as dark green leafy vegetables, sprouted beans, pea greens, corn sprouts, green juice,
carrot juice, and certain botanicals.

There is a high level of naturally occurring vegetable Calcium available in Terminalia
arjuna, a traditional medicinal botanical grown in Asia. Special extracts of this herb are
available in supplement form that are exceptionally high in naturally occurring calcium.

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