As the body’s most abundant mineral, calcium has long been popular with people concerned about their health—especially women who want to avoid the painful fractures associated with osteoporosis. What’s more, research into other health benefits, including blood pressure regulation, has kept calcium in the public eye.
Calcium comes in different forms, some of which the body has an easier time absorbing than others. One of the most absorbable types of calcium comes from a marine algae found off the coast of South America.
Bone and Beyond
Nearly all of the body’s calcium supply is found in the bones and teeth, which explains why calcium is so important in maintaining skeletal health. Bone tissue is constantly being renewed; when it is broken down faster than it is rebuilt, osteoporosis can result. Calcium (along with its partners, vitamins D and K) helps the body build bone properly, resulting in a strong, fracture-resistant frame.
The rest of the body gets only 1% of the calcium. But that doesn’t stop this tiny amount from playing a huge role in numerous bodily processes.
Calcium helps pass signals between the nervous and muscular systems, allowing muscles to contract and relax. This process extends to the smooth muscles within blood-vessel walls; calcium, which allows blood vessels to relax and widen, is required for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Calcium has been shown, through interaction with other chemical processes within the body, to help lower blood pressure in people with both hypertension and diabetes (American Journal of Hypertension 12/09). High blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, and research has shown a link between calcium intake and reductions in stroke risk (Heart 10/09). In addition, calcium’s soothing effects have helped ease symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (Taiwan Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 6/09).
Calcium’s effects on PMS can be partially explained by how it interacts with different hormones; this hormonal activity also accounts for the link between calcium and weight control. Research has associated calcium intake with less fat being deposited in the abdomen, the “belly fat” that harms health (Obesity 3/4/10 online). Women with higher calcium intakes have been able to avoid regaining lost weight (Journal of Nutrition 10/07).
Researchers have explored the link between calcium, in association with vitamin D, and colon health. In one European study, people with higher intakes of both nutrients had a reduced risk of developing colon cancer (BMJ 1/21/10). Calcium and vitamin D appear to help maintain healthy cell growth within the intestinal lining (Cancer Prevention Research 3/09).
According to the National Institutes of Health, many Americans don’t get all the calcium they need from food, with postmenopausal women and vegetarians among those especially at risk. This has led many people to take calcium supplements, which can be helpful. For example, supplemental calcium has increased bone density in older men (Archives of Internal Medicine 11/10/08).
Taking extra calcium, however, is not always the same thing as absorbing it. Algas calcareas is a type of algae that draws calcium from seawater and processes it into a digestible, organic form. Used as a dietary supplement in South America for decades, it is now available in the US and has shown greater promise as a bone builder than other forms of supplemental calcium (Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 3/7/10 online).
Getting enough calcium is important for everyone. Algae-based supplements make that task easier.