Often we speak of healthy bones and strong teeth, and most of us remember our parents’ admonition to “drink your milk.” Though we may have resisted then, as adults we are now more aware of the need for calcium, and perhaps calcium supplements, as well.An adequate intake of calcium can help prevent the bone loss associated with osteoporosis, a condition where the structure, or matrix, of bone is no longer as solid or as strong as it should be. The bone matrix is composed of a mineral component that includes both calcium salt and phosphate salt, and an organic component that is largely collagen fibers. The calcium and phosphate salts combine to form the hydroxyapatite crystals that give bone its amazing ability to withstand stress. Collagen is the main protein of skin, tendon, cartilage, bone and connective tissue. It is collagen that provides flexibility to bone. The mineral component makes up most of the mature bone matrix, with the remainder basically comprised of collagen and water.
When viewed through a microscope, bone matrix resembles a sponge, with a stronger “compact” tissue found on the outer surface of the bone, and a softer, or “spongy” tissue towards the middle.
The mineral component of the bone matrix is intimately related to the levels of the minerals in the bloodstream.The regulation of blood mineral levels is such that if a person has a calcium deficiency, the bones surrender calcium to maintain the amounts needed in the blood for other body functions, such as heart muscle stimulation and nerve impulse transmission. Increased amounts of phosphorus from sources such as carbonated beverages, fast foods, and preservatives can contribute to a calcium deficiency by lowering the available blood calcium. In osteoporosis, the bones begin to deteriorate due to calcium deficiency as a result of the body’s efficiency in maintaining mineral balance in the blood. Unfortunately it is done at the expense of bone integrity.
Increasing dietary calcium intake can help prevent this “theft” of calcium from bone before the onset of osteoporosis.
Bone Loss. One reason that bone loss occurs is because of low calcium levels in the blood. These decreased levels can lead to a weakened matrix and a higher risk for fractures. Since these effects may remain undetected and painless in the early stages, osteoporosis is known as the “silent thief.” While many causes for osteoporosis have been identified, treatment of early stage osteoporosis often focuses on calcium supplements