How Does Calcium Impact Bone Density — and Why Does It Matter?
Our bones are the necessary structures that hold our bodies upright and protect our organs, which is why it’s important to keep them strong and healthy through our lifetimes.
The relationship between bone density and supplementation, primarily the benefits of calcium, is crucial, especially if your body isn’t getting or absorbing the right amount of vitamins and minerals.
In this article, we’ll share why bone density is important, why individuals experience decreased bone density as they age, and what you can do to increase and maintain healthy bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. You’ll also learn why First & Foremost’s dayparted micronutrients provide the right amount of vitamins and minerals, including calcium at the right time.
What is bone density?
Bone density or bone mineral density (BMD) is the amount of bone mineral you have, which can determine the strength and health of your bones.
Bones are made of a honeycomb structure with tiny holes to keep them light and springy. Developed from a combination of collagen and calcium phosphate, this keeps our bones strong, while being light and flexible. They are also a living organ in the sense that bone continuously remodels itself, undergoing structural and biological changes. On a microscopic level, old bone breaks itself down while at the same time it rebuilds itself.
Through bone formation, cells called osteoblasts create collagen and chondroitin sulfate – necessary bone-building materials. But for that process to work properly, the body needs calcium and phosphate. Bones store these minerals, drawing on them when needed. Almost 100% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth, while a small amount of calcium is also found in the blood.
Why is calcium important for bone health?
Calcium is needed for your body to not only build bone strength, but also to aid in muscle function, nerve function, blood clotting and healthy blood pressure regulation.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1000 mg a day for most adults. During periods of growth, like puberty, or menopause, RDA increases to 1200 to 1300 mg. Dietitians like us tend to be “food-first” and encourage nutrient intake from food — calcium-rich foods include dairy and soy products, broccoli and spinach. However, your body only absorbs about a third of the “dietary calcium.”
Calcium can interfere with absorption of other nutrients, including iron, zinc and magnesium. When supplementing with calcium, it’s best to keep doses under 500 mg to improve absorption. That’s why F&F splits its calcium doses throughout the day to maximize nutrient absorption and keep you safe from over-supplementation. Consistent over-supplementation of calcium has been associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney stones, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
What is low bone density?
Age, lifestyle and hormone changes can lower bone density and increase the risk of fractures and breaks, especially as you grow older. Each year about 1.5 million adults suffer a fracture due to bone disease.
Low bone density can result in conditions such as osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis. These systemic conditions can increase the risk of fractures in the hip and spine, which can be permanently disabling and even ultimately fatal.
Low bone density occurs when the pace of bone breakdown overtakes bone creation, usually around age 50. This can result in those microscopic holes that keep bones light and flexible becoming bigger and the outside walls becoming thinner, rendering your bones more fragile.
What contributes to low bone density?
Women begin to rapidly lose bone mass around the time of menopause. The decrease in the hormone estrogen, a key regulator in bone remodeling, can result in a steep drop in bone density. Men also experience a decrease in bone mass by age 50, when calcium absorption begins to decrease. Low levels of testosterone, a condition called hypogonadism, can also play a role in reduced calcium absorption.
Vitamin D deficiency, certain medications, gastrointestinal disease that can affect calcium absorption, alcohol abuse and smoking can all contribute to low bone density levels.
How is low bone density diagnosed?
To determine bone density, a BMD test is conducted, usually from an imaging test called DEXA. This low-dose X-ray measures calcium and other minerals in your bones, along with the strength and thickness of your bones.
These results of the test are called T scores: A T score of -1 to +1 is considered normal, while a T score of -1 to -2.5 indicates osteopenia. A T score of -2.5 or lower is considered a characteristic of osteoporosis.
It’s recommended women begin getting BMD tests at age 65 and men at age 70, unless there are symptoms, personal or family medical history that would encourage earlier testing.
How can I increase bone density?
Even before age 50, pay attention to your calcium intake and consider taking a supplement. A nationwide study found that fewer than half of individuals consume the recommended allowance of calcium.
F&F provides calcium throughout the day to help absorption and reduce interaction with zinc and magnesium. The three-part supplement regimen also includes vitamin D.
In addition, it’s recommended to avoid tobacco and consume alcohol in moderation because both have been linked to seeping calcium from bones. A strength-training plan that helps put “good” stress on your bones can help build stronger bones. This is why light weights or weight-bearing exercises are recommended in older adults’ physical activity. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, your physician may also recommend medication.
A balanced diet, healthy lifestyle and recommended daily vitamins and minerals, such as with F&F, are typically the best recipe for strong and healthy bones throughout life.