Of the calcium, 99% is stored in the bones with the balance being stored in the body fluids. In the bones, it not only acts to maintain a strong skeletal structure but also serves as attachment points for the tendons of the muscles. The calcium in the body fluids circulates as iodized calcium which helps to regulate muscle contraction, blood clotting, transmission of nerve impulses, the secretion of hormones and the activation of some enzyme reactions.
Calcium by itself cannot be absorbed by the body. It needs other nutrients to enable that to happen. Those nutrients include magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and D. An example of this is magnesium. Magnesium stimulates the production of a hormone called calcitonin. This hormone is what keeps the calcium in the bones and out of the soft tissue. It is believed that many forms of arthritis are due to an increase of calcium in the body fluids and a lack of calcium in the bones[i]. Another example is the need for Vitamin D. Typically we absorb about 25% of the calcium we ingest. Vitamin D helps to make the calcium-binding protein which is needed in order for us to absorb that 25%. So as you can see, it is a bit more complex than we think.
To take this a step further, the 1% of calcium in the body fluids always remains the same. If we are not consuming enough calcium through our diet, the body will actually take the calcium out of the bones to maintain that appropriate level in the fluids. This process is silent, meaning we might actually not know this is happening. Unfortunately as we age however, this can show up as osteoporosis.
With all of this said, it is important to make sure we are getting an adequate amount of calcium and its carriers in our diet. The average adult should consume between 1,000 – 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily[ii]. This may sound like a lot but it really isn’t! Let us take a look at what foods actually contain high amounts of calcium.
Of course the dairy industry wants you to believe that their source of calcium is the best. Although cheese and milk do contain a high amount of calcium, often people are intolerant to dairy.