What Is Calcium Carbonate?
Calcium tends to make you think of strong bones, white teeth and occasionally - a milk moustache. But when it comes to explaining exactly what is calcium carbonate and how it benefits you - there’s a lot more to it.
It’s true, 99% of bodily calcium is found in bones and teeth. But it’s more than just ‘white stuff for your skeleton’.
Our bodies use calcium constantly. This amazing substance has many roles, ranging from the maintenance of proper heart and nervous system function to hormonal balance, brain activity and blood clotting.
In fact, it’s the most abundant mineral in the body and you need it in large amounts!
What Is Calcium Carbonate Found In?
Calcium carbonate can be found naturally in rocks and limestone, shells, coral and eggs. Fish with soft bones, some seaweeds and blackstrap molasses provide a healthy dose too.
In food, calcium is highest in dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese. Supplementation is a smart move for people with an allergy to dairy proteins such as lactose and casein.
Some people claim that humans can obtain enough calcium from vegetarian sources like leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds.
However the phytic acid and oxalates naturally present in these actually bind to, and interfere with calcium absorption - making it better on paper than in practice.
Fun fact: 1-2 kilograms of calcium is present in your body at any given time!
What Is Calcium Carbonate’s Key Role In Your Body?
If you ask me what is calcium carbonate best known for - I’d say as a bone builder. And it is - but it offers a huge array of other benefits, too.
So what is calcium carbonate’s role in the body? I’d say there are two key roles:
→ In bone, tiny amounts of calcium are continuously being removed and replaced in a process known as ‘bone remodelling’.
→ In cells, calcium acts as a ‘master signaller’. (An amazing title if I ever heard one!). When calcium enters the cell, it sets vital cellular processes in motion - as well as helping molecules move in and out, transmitting electrical impulses and allowing muscles to contract.
In short, calcium ensures that your heart keeps beating, your muscles keep ‘firing’ and the right neurotransmitters are released in your brain.
To spell out some of calcium carbonate’s features:
✔ Vital for the health of bones and teeth
✔ Regulates electrical signalling in your cells
✔ Works with vitamin K to maintain healthy blood clotting
✔ Needed by muscles for strength and movement
✔ Helps nerves conduct signals
✔ Activates enzymes
✔ Converts cholesterol to sex hormones
✔ Facilitates vitamin B12 absorption
Here are some of calcium carbonate’s therapeutic benefits:
→ Reduced risk of osteoporosis
As the human body ages, bones naturally lose their density. Sometimes - especially due to hormonal changes in postmenopausal women - this occurs at a faster rate, leaving bones porous, fragile and prone to fracture. Increasing calcium consumption - alongside other complementary factors such as protein, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, fluoride, vitamins D, A, C, and K - has been found to both prevent and treat osteoporosis.
→ Reduced blood pressure
The positive association between calcium intake and blood pressure is well-known and extensively studied. Diets high in calcium - or the prescription of calcium supplements - have been repeatedly shown to lower mild to moderate hypertension. At this stage, there’s no consensus as to why - but it probably has to do with calcium's involvement in kidney function, the nervous and hormonal systems, muscle contraction and vascular relaxation.
→ Reduced risk of preeclampsia in pregnancy
Preeclampsia is another particularly dangerous form of high blood pressure, affecting pregnant women in their third trimester. Calcium supplementation has been found to drastically reduce the incidence of preeclampsia.
→ For premenstrual syndrome
Calcium supplementation may significantly decrease symptoms of PMS such as headache, mood changes, bloating and craving.
→ For maintaining a healthy body weight
Interestingly, calcium could play a role in regulating body weight and fat storage. It may have to do with parathyroid hormone (which monitors how much calcium is ‘floating around’ in the body at any given time), appetite regulation, and how fat is absorbed. Regardless, it was found that people who had diets higher in dairy and calcium had a lower body mass index.
→ For kidney stones
Despite a majority of kidney stones being made up of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate, extra calcium in the diet, or as a supplement, appears to reduce their incidence. Go figure!
→ To prevent colorectal cancer
Studies have shown that diets higher in calcium-rich dairy products lower the risk of colorectal cancer, the most common form of gastrointestinal cancer and a leading cause of death in developed nations. This may be due to an interaction with calcium receptors found in cells of the colon.
How To Take Calcium Carbonate
The accepted dosages for calcium carbonate are as follows:
- For the general population (under 50 years of age) 1000 mg of calcium citrate daily
- For women over 50 and men over 70, 1200 mg
- For pregnant and breastfeeding women, 1300 mg
Calcium carbonate is considered to be safe - but, like all calcium, not recommended in excess.
Calcium carbonate may require robust stomach acid in order to be digested, (particularly compared to other forms such as citrate). This may lead to side effects including constipation, gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
High levels of calcium in the blood may be associated with hypercalcemia - the deposition of calcium into the arteries and tissues, associated with heart attack and stroke.
This may be mitigated however, by taking lower of doses of high-quality calcium, alongside cofactors like vitamin D and K.
Calcium may also reduce the effectiveness of some medications and is contraindicated for people taking digoxin, thiazide and some antivirals, so always check with your healthcare provider before supplementing.
Needless to say, a great way to enjoy calcium carbonate’s benefits is in your daily Athletic Greens mix. After all, calcium carbonate is the most well-known form of calcium for treating acid reflux, and is often used as a non-toxic binding agent in other tablets, too.
And let’s not forget the many benefits:
Calcium is well studied for the prevention and treatment of bone-related disease such as osteoporosis, as well as lowering blood pressure, preventing high-blood pressure in pregnancy, reducing the risk of colorectal cancer and even helping regulate body weight.
As a relaxant and nervous system tonic, benefits may also exist for PMS and disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
So don’t dust off your milk moustache, because if you ask me ‘what is calcium carbonate?’ I say, it’s here to stay, that’s what!