Calcium plays a major role in building and maintaining healthy bones in people of all ages. It combines with other minerals to form the hard crystals that give the bone its strength.
The bones act as a calcium bank account, storing calcium and releasing it into the bloodstream as needed. The body cannot make calcium; it must come from our diet. So if your diet is inadequate in calcium there are more withdrawals than deposits from your calcium bank account and you risk losing bone strength.
Lack of calcium has been singled out as a major public health concern because it is critically important to bone health. Your daily requirement of calcium depends on your age and sex. Peak bone mass is achieved by the early 20s and most of this is done during puberty. The higher your peak bone mass, the more likely it is that you will maintain better bone health for the rest of your life. This is why calcium is so important for children and teenagers. In adults, adequate calcium is essential to maintain bone strength. As we age, calcium is less effectively absorbed from the intestine, so the intake needs to be increased. When the body can no longer replace the calcium fast enough to keep the bones healthy, they become thinner, resulting in osteoporosis.
Less than half of all Australian adults get their daily recommended intake of calcium.
If you cannot get enough calcium in your diet, your doctor may suggest a calcium supplement. The easiest way is a single tablet containing 600 mg of calcium. Calcium tablets combined with vitamin D are also available. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium.