Perhaps the food element that attracts more attention than any other is calcium, largely because of the work that the dairy industry has done in trying to promote its produce. Protein runs neck and neck with calcium, because of the same type of publicity effort. Most people are unaware that both calcium and protein are toxic in overdoses. Vitamin D is also tied with the promotion of the dairy industry, and it too is toxic in overdosage. The largest nutritional survey ever conducted in any country was made in Canada in 1973. It was discovered that by present standards most Canadians are short on calcium and Vitamin D in their diets; yet, there were no observed cases of dietary rickets! We must conclude that because we have set the minimum daily requirements too high, we are urging people to overeat on dairy products and other foods that are high in calcium and Vitamin D when in fact the need is far below that which is recommended, probably a quarter or even much less.
Because calcium is toxic to the body in overdosage, the body has a mechanism that prevents the over absorption of calcium. Only 20-30 percent of the calcium ingested in food is usually absorbed. It may be taken as a biologic law that the body utilizes nutrients more efficiently from the intestinal tract when in need of that particular material. Two groups of boys fed a standard diet showed a markedly different ability to absorb calcium, determined by the intake of calcium prior to the study and were able to retain only 103 milligrams of calcium per day. The other group, fed on a low calcium diet for two months prior to the study, were able to take up 374 milligrams of calcium per day in the experimental period, more than three times as much. The high calcium boys simply excreted more calcium, or failed to take it up from their food. Persons who take in less calcium tend to utilize it more fully and less must be excreted.
If one takes a high protein diet there is a greater excretion of calcium in the urine. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet soon triggers a mechanism for loss of calcium from bone.
One index to the amount of calcium needed can be inferred by comparing human breast milk with the whole fresh cow's milk. Human breast milk contains 80 milligrams per cup, whereas cow's milk contains 288 milligrams per cup. Many nutritionists feel that we should supplement a baby's diet so that he gets the same quantity of calcium that he would get if he were being fed cow's milk. It seems more logical to believe that the amount of calcium that the human baby needs has been specially provided for him by his own mother, and no attempt at supplementation should be made.
Calcium serves a number of functions in the body. One of its most apparent functions is that of maintaining firm structure of bones and teeth. More than 90% of the calcium in the body is stored in these two structures.
Calcium prevents muscle tissue from being overactive and going into spasm. Because of its function in this way it is often mistakenly recommended for muscle cramps. But cramps that are due to many other causes than calcium deficiency can be relieved, or at least helped, by taking calcium. In fact, calcium deficiency is an exceedingly rare cause of muscle cramps. Long before cramps develop in muscles, low calcium in the blood shows up with serious symptoms of other kinds, such as inability to clot the blood, inability to transmit nerve impulses, convulsive seizures, and the failure of certain enzyme systems. All of these factors are also functions of calcium in the body. In regard to its nerve transmission function, the regulation of the heartbeat is also very much concerned with calcium.
Calcium and phosphorus have a see-saw relationship with each other; when one is high, the other is low. Therefore, overeating of calcium can cause the essential mineral phosphorus to be seriously depressed. Conversely, overeating of such foods as bran and cow's milk with their high phosphorus content can upset the balance of calcium in the body.
The majority of this content is taken from Dr. Agatha Thrash of Uchee Pines Institute, printed with permission by Wildwood Inn Health Retreat.