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Calcium, one of the essential minerals for optimal health, strengthens the skeleton and dentition, with the teeth and bones functioning as a repository for 99% of the body's calcium.
The skeleton undergoes continual change or remodelling, as new bone, created by cells known as osteoblasts, is deposited to take the place of bone broken down during resorption. In childhood and adolescence, new bone is deposited at a faster rate than existing bone is resorped.
A deficiency during these years can result in rickets. During an individual’s twenties, the body’s mass of bone reaches its peak. This peak is influenced by genetic and environmental issues, diet, physical activity and lifestyle factors, such as the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
As a person ages, bone resorps at a faster rate than the building of new bone. Women experience a reduction in the hormone estrogen following menopause, which contributes to bone loss. A deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis with the possibility of fractures for both sexes.
The mineral is essential for blood clotting, muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve impulses, signalling between cells, the maintenance of a normal heartbeat and the release of hormones and enzymes into the blood. Calcium together with potassium and magnesium plays an important role in stroke prevention.