Calcification is the procedure by which your body deposits calcium in your bones to increase bone density and harden your bones. However, calcification may take place in soft tissue and organs, resulting in hardening of the tissues due to the presence of calcium and causing medical problems. The March 2010 Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter mentions several factors that initiate calcification but reports that researchers have not found any association between high dietary intakes of calcium and the calcification of most soft tissues.
Causes of Calcification
Calcification of soft tissue appears to be the method by which the body repairs an internal wound. Calcification usually forms in tissues that have been exposed to injury, surgery, radiation, infection or cysts. The Linus Pauling Institute states that vitamin D toxicity causes an increase in serum calcium levels, which, over time, may lead to calcification of the heart and kidneys. According to a 2008 study published in the "Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology," patients with chronic kidney disease are at risk of arterial calcification.
Soft Tissue Calcification
Numerous soft tissues in the body are susceptible to calcification and most calcifications are usually asymptomatic. Breast tissue calcification is a common occurrence, prevalent in about half the women over the age of 50. However, since no signs accompany the calcification of breast tissues, a routine mammography may diagnose calcium deposits. Breast arterial calcifications, also revealed by mammogram, increase the risk of heart disease. Calcification of the coronary and brain arteries increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Additionally, calcification can cause painful joints, lung disease and formation of kidney stones.
Calcium Intake and Calcification
A study reported in the December 2010 issue of the "Journal of Bone and Mineral Research" did not find any correlation between calcium intake and the prevalence of abdominal aortic calcification. Additionally, a study based on the increased risk of heart disease due to vascular calcification and reported in the journal "Circulation" found that taking calcium and vitamin D supplements did not increase or decrease the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women. Similarly, there seems to be no link between calcium intake and breast tissue calcification, according to the California Medical Center.
The Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter quotes a study in which an intake of more than 2,000 mg of calcium supplements was found to result in symptoms of milk-alkali syndrome. Calcifications of the cornea, lung and lymph nodes, in addition to high blood calcium levels and kidney dysfunction, are symptoms of this syndrome. Women who take large doses of calcium in the form of supplements and antacids, along with vitamin D supplements to increase calcium absorption, may be at risk of milk-alkali syndrome. You should be cautious while taking supplements, and ensure that intake does not exceed the recommended dietary allowance for your age and gender.
- Harvard Women’s Health Watch: Calcium Beyond the Bones
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin D
- Journal of Bone and Mineral Research: Relationships Between Vascular Calcification, Calcium Metabolism, Bone Density and Fractures
- Circulation: Calcium/Vitamin D Supplementation and Cardiovascular Events
- California Pacific Medical Center: Breast Calcifications
- Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: Improving Global Outcomes in Mineral and Bone Disorders