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Another Reason to Meet Your Calcium Goals and Recommended Intakes


You know that calcium is important for strong bones, but did you also know that it has a role in brain health as well?


Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is required for a wide variety of functions but is best known for its importance in supporting the structure and function of the bones and teeth. A recent study emphasizes that calcium is also important to other parts of the body, including the cells in your brain that are critical for learning and memory.

A full 99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth. Early intake of calcium in children is very important as bone is constantly growing and remodeling during this time. But your calcium needs do not end in childhood and adolescence. Even in aging adults, bone formation is occurring, but at a slower rate.

Calcium is also important to your heart and other body tissues, as it is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling, and hormonal secretion.

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that calcium is critical in the mitochondria of brain cells and this can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition. Lack of calcium into this cellular powerhouse can lead to memory impairment.

"The new study's conclusion is that mitochondrial calcium entry during development is necessary to establish the neuronal competency for supporting adult memory," said TSRI Research Associate Ilaria Drago, the first author of the study.

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Recommended Intakes
Intake recommendations for calcium – as well as other nutrients – are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Each age range needs a differing level of calcium due to growth, but in general children need between 700 and 1300 mg calcium per day and adults need 1000-1200 mg per day.

Food Sources
Dairy foods are the major food contributors of calcium in our American Diet. These include milk, yogurt and cheese. Nondairy sources include vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, kale and broccoli. Canned seafood where the bones of the fish are consumed (sardines, salmon) are also good sources. Some foods can be found to be fortified with calcium, such as cereals, tofu, and orange juice.

The two main forms of calcium supplements are carbonate and citrate. Calcium carbonate is more commonly available and is inexpensive. It is absorbed best when taken with food as it needs stomach acid for absorption. Calcium citrate is good for people who cannot tolerate calcium carbonate due to achlorhydria, inflammatory bowel disease, or absorption disorders.

Journal Reference:
Ilaria Drago and Ronald L. Davis. Inhibiting the Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter during Development Impairs Memory in Adult Drosophila.Cell Reports, August 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.017

Additional Resource:
National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements

Photo Credit
By Stefan Kühn - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons