Calcium is a chemical element that is essential for various bodily functions. It is a mineral that is abundant in the human body, with about 99% of the calcium being stored in the bones and teeth. The remaining 1% is found in the blood and other tissues, where it plays crucial roles in muscle function, nerve transmission, hormone secretion, and blood clotting.

Calcium is also vital for maintaining strong bones and teeth. It helps to build, strengthen, and repair bones throughout life and is particularly important during childhood and adolescence when the body is still growing.

Through this article, let’s dig deep into the role of calcium in the body, its deficiency, causes, and associated symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency?

1) Muscle Cramps & Spasms: Calcium is necessary for proper muscle contraction. Low calcium levels can cause muscle cramps and spasms, especially in the legs and feet.

2) Numbness & Tingling: Calcium plays a role in nerve signaling. A deficiency can lead to tingling sensations, numbness, or a “pins and needles” feeling in the hands, feet, or face.

3) Weak & Brittle Nails: Calcium deficiency may cause weak and brittle nails that break easily.

4) Tooth Decay: Calcium is essential for maintaining strong teeth. Insufficient calcium levels can contribute to tooth decay and cavities.

5) Osteoporosis: Chronic calcium deficiency can lead to a condition called osteoporosis, characterized by weak and brittle bones that are prone to fractures.

6) Delayed Development in Children: Insufficient calcium intake during childhood can hinder bone development and growth, potentially leading to shorter stature or skeletal deformities.

7) Fatigue & Weakness: Calcium is involved in energy metabolism and muscle function. A deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, and reduced exercise performance.

8) Poor Skin Health: Calcium is crucial for maintaining healthy skin cells. Insufficient levels can result in dry, itchy, or irritated skin.

9) Cognitive & Emotional Disturbances: Some studies have suggested a link between low calcium levels and cognitive impairments, such as memory problems and depression.

What Causes Calcium Deficiency?

Calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia, can be caused by several factors including:

1) Inadequate Dietary Intake: Not consuming enough calcium-rich foods such as dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods can lead to calcium deficiency.

2) Poor Absorption: Certain medical conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and lactose intolerance can affect the body’s ability to absorb calcium from the diet.

3) Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium in the intestines. Without sufficient levels of vitamin D, calcium absorption is reduced.

4) Hormonal Disorders: Conditions like hypoparathyroidism or pseudohypoparathyroidism, which affect the production or function of the parathyroid hormone responsible for regulating calcium levels, can cause calcium deficiency.

5) Chronic Kidney Disease: The kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining calcium levels in the body. If the kidneys are not functioning properly, they may excrete too much calcium, leading to deficiency.

6) Medications & Treatments: Certain medications and treatments like long-term use of corticosteroids, antacid overuse, and chemotherapy can interfere with calcium absorption or increase calcium excretion.

7) Age-Related Factors: Older adults may be at higher risk of calcium deficiency due to reduced absorption efficiency, decreased production of stomach acid, and hormonal changes.

8) Pregnancy & Breastfeeding: Calcium requirements are increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If dietary intake is insufficient to meet the increased demands, calcium deficiency can occur.

9) Excessive Alcohol & Caffeine Consumption: Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine can increase calcium excretion through the kidneys.

10) Eating Disorders & Restrictive Diets: Conditions like anorexia nervosa and restrictive diets that eliminate dairy or other calcium-rich foods can contribute to calcium deficiency.

Dietary Sources of Calcium

There are several dietary sources of calcium:

  • Dairy Products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich sources of calcium. For a healthier option, choose low-fat or non-fat options. 
  • Leafy Green Vegetables: Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, and collard greens are high in calcium. These can be cooked or eaten raw in salads.
  • Tofu: Tofu is a plant-based source of calcium, particularly if it is made with calcium sulfate. Look for tofu that is labeled as a good source of calcium.
  • Fortified Plant-Based Milk: Many plant-based milks, such as almond milk and soy milk, are fortified with calcium to provide a similar amount as cow’s milk.
  • Canned Fish: Fish with soft bones, such as salmon and sardines, are good sources of calcium. Make sure to eat the bones to maximize calcium intake.
  • Beans & Lentils: Legumes like navy beans, chickpeas, and lentils contain calcium along with other essential nutrients.
  • Nuts & Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds are excellent sources of calcium.
  • Fortified Foods: Some breakfast cereals, orange juice, and bread are fortified with calcium. Check the labels to find products that provide a good amount of calcium.

It’s important to note that the body absorbs calcium better when vitamin D is present, so it’s beneficial to ensure adequate vitamin D intake as well.

Role of Calcium in the Body

Calcium plays a crucial role in various physiological processes within the body. Some of its main functions include:

1) Bone Health: Calcium is a major component of bones and teeth, accounting for about 99% of the body’s total calcium. It provides strength and structure to bones, making them essential for normal growth, development, and maintenance of the skeletal system.

2) Muscle Contraction: Calcium ions play a vital role in muscle contraction, including both skeletal and cardiac muscles. When released into muscle cells, calcium binds to proteins, enabling the sliding of actin and myosin filaments, which ultimately leads to muscle contraction.

3) Nerve Function: Calcium is essential for nerve impulse transmission in the body. It regulates the release of neurotransmitters, which are responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells.

4) Blood Clotting: Calcium plays a crucial role in the clotting process. Upon injury, calcium ions interact with proteins in the blood to form a clot and prevent excessive bleeding.

5) Enzyme Function: Many enzymes in the body require calcium as a cofactor to function properly. Calcium helps regulate the activity of various enzymes involved in processes like metabolism, digestion, and hormone secretion.

6) Cell Signaling: Calcium ions act as important signaling molecules within cells, participating in various cellular processes such as gene expression, cell division, and cell death.

7) Hormone Secretion: Calcium is involved in the secretion of several hormones, including insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels, and parathyroid hormone, which helps regulate calcium levels in the blood.

To maintain optimal calcium levels in the body, it is essential to consume an adequate amount of dietary calcium from sources like milk, dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods. Additionally, vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption in the intestines, and hormones like parathyroid hormone and calcitonin regulate calcium levels by controlling its absorption and excretion.


Calcium is a vital mineral that is necessary for various functions in the body. It is the most abundant mineral in the human body and plays a critical role in maintaining overall health.

It is important to maintain adequate calcium levels in the body through a balanced diet rich in calcium-rich foods like dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and fortified foods. In case of insufficient calcium intake, the body may draw calcium from the bones, leading to a decrease in bone density and potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis.