Calcium, ST and You
These days one cannot open a magazine or listen to a news broadcast without hearing about some form of nutritional topic or another. The aspects of nutrition are on everyone’s mind. In part, because of the attention being paid. However, we as a society, do not deal with the important issues well. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t always get it to eat its oats!
Considering all the nutritional issues as a whole, the most important that relates to ST would perhaps be calcium metabolism. The bone structures of the body and especially the spine use calcium as its main support. Because of this role, calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Bone is much of calcium and phosphorus crystals held together by a protein glue. The bone also acts as a reservoir or storage facility when the body needs calcium for other reasons, e.g., pregnancy.
There has been more interest in calcium supplementation due to two main factors. The first of which is the huge rush of baby boomers heading for middle age. The second and more disturbing are that the folks who have already gotten there may be suffering from osteoporosis. This is a condition, due to lack of calcium that causes the bones to become brittle and to break with little or no trauma. It is estimated that of the 40 million women over the age of 50, more than one-half are likely to have radiological identifiable osteoporosis. This leads to more than 80% of 1.2 million fractures (in general) and more than 200,000 hip fractures alone in women over the age of 50 years in the United States due to postmenopausal osteoporosis. Men, don’t think that you are off the hook either as there is an age-related osteoporosis waiting for you, too! If you are short of stature, are of northern European or Asian descent, your risk increases. This overlaps one of the risk factors of many of our ST members who are of northern European descent also.
There are several things in our lifestyles that may actually increase our bones to lose mass and calcium. These include the loss of sex hormones especially estrogen for women. When women approach menopause they should consider replacement therapy, and discuss the details and risks with their doctors. Other factors that may increase the loss of calcium include a sedentary lifestyle (without much exercise), alcohol, smoking, caffeine and certain medications, e.g., steroids.
How much calcium do we need? Below are the recommendations for healthy individuals put forth by the NIH (National Institute of Health) Development Panel.
How much calcium do you need?
Age group Milligrams per day INFANTS Birth to 6 months 400; 6 months to 1 year 600; CHILDREN 1 to 5 years 800; 6 to 10 years 800-1200; ADOLESCENTS 11 to 24 years 1200-1500; MEN 25 to 65 years 1000; 65 years and over 1500; WOMEN 25 to 50 years 1000; Pregnant/Nursing 1200-1500; Postmenopausal 1000-1500; 65 years and over 1500.
It is important to note that there are strong dynamic structural stresses placed on the bones of the cervical spine for many torticollis patients. To keep the bones strong and have “normal” size and shape, it is recommended that ST/Dystonia patients consider supplementing at the higher end of the appropriate category. Below are some of the foods you may want to try!
FOOD QUANTITY CALCIUM Almonds, shelled 1/2 cup; 75 Bean burrito, with cheese 2 medium 214; Broccoli, cooked, chopped 1/2 cup 47; Carnation Instant Breakfast 1 packet 407; Cheese, cheddar 1 oz. 204; Cheese, cottage 1/2 cup 68; Cheese, mozzarella 1 oz. 147; Cheese, parmesan 1 oz. 336; Cheese, Swiss 1 oz. 272; Figs, dried, cut 5 medium 34; Milk, whole 1 cup 291; Milk, skim 1 cup 302; Oatmeal, instant 1 packet 163; Orange 1 medium 52; Salmon, canned, with bones 3 oz. 203; Sardines, canned, with bones 8 medium 368;Tofu, firm 1/2 cup 258; Tofu, regular 1/2 cup 130; Yogurt, nonfat, plain 1 cup 452; Yogurt, lowfat, with fruit 1 cup 383.
Calcium is used in a variety of other processes in the body such as:
Transmitting nerve impulses that control muscle contractions
Release of chemicals that cause messages to be sent between nerves
Other forms of signals between cells
Helps make the “glue” which holds us together
Allows a complex series of chemical reactions to take place when blood clots
Helps make and send enzymes and hormones to the correct locations
Growth and development of children into adults
A lack of calcium has been thought to contribute to the notorious premenstrual syndrome (PMS), prevent certain gastrointestinal problems and may be a factor that increases hypertension.
Most of the time we do not have a reliable measure to see how much fuel our calcium “tank” is holding. If your physician is concerned a bone density test could be ordered to get a snapshot of how strong your bones are at this time. If you are close to “empty” on the fuel gauge then there are some medications that are available that may increase your ability to absorb and utilize more calcium. Hopefully, we can find out how much calcium we need and start supplementing before that $30,000 hip operation becomes necessary!
Jim Auberle, M.D.
Medical Director, ST/Dystonia
My mom and I wanted to thank you for hosting such a great symposium this year. This was our third year and we are looking forward to next years. E. Mathews