Calcium is an essential mineral present in all of your body's cells, mostly in your bones and teeth, but in soft tissues as well. You can acquire calcium through foods and nutritional supplements, and it has a variety of effects on your body, including effects on your nervous system. Your nervous system comprises your brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves that control body movement and cellular function. Talk with your doctor before using calcium supplements.
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The main role calcium plays in regard to nervous system function is in cell signaling. Calcium is important in the contraction and expansion of blood vessels, nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and hormone production. In muscle cells, nerve endings release calcium ions, which bind to activator proteins. The activator proteins initiate the complex process of muscle contraction and allows your muscles to move. Without calcium, your muscles would not be able to contract and relax.
Calcium may be a mediating factor in the initiation and regulation of responses of your nervous system to injury, according to a study published by the "Journal of Neurotrauma" in March 1992. The researchers found that when a cell becomes injured through trauma, your central nervous system sends calcium into the injured cell as a possible protective measure against further cellular damage. Calcium seeks out cells that are dead or dying and blocks your body from wasting metabolic resources trying to repair them.
Calcium appears to be involved in each phase of brain cell development during the early stages of life, according to a study published by the journal "Progress in Brain Research" in 2009. Calcium has the ability to regulate neuronal development and can direct both structural and functional adaptations in specific brain cells. When the calcium-dependent network of brain development does not work properly, sometimes resulting from a calcium deficiency in the mother during pregnancy, the risk of the fetus developing diseases such as autism or mental retardation increases, the researchers found.
Your body requires a delicate balance of calcium in order to function optimally. Too much calcium, or hypercalcemia, can cause potentially serious side effects, and too little calcium, or hypocalcemia, can also have adverse effects. The recommended dietary intake of calcium, as set by the Food and Nutrition Board, is about 1,000 to 1,200 mg per day for most adults. Adolescents, older adults, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may require additional calcium. Talk with your doctor to determine how much calcium you should be taking daily for optimal health.