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Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It's essential for a huge range of important roles from the coagulation of blood to the development of strong bones. Calcium also plays a crucial role in the transmission of nerve impulses, and the maintenance of cell membranes. There is evidence to suggest that calcium may help reduce blood pressure and protect against colon and breast cancer.

Food sources
The best food sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Spinach, broccoli and almonds are also good sources of calcium. Many food products such as breakfast bars are fortified with calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals.

Daily requirement
The European Commission daily recommendation for the mineral calcium is 800mg for both men and women. In the UK the RDA for calcium is slightly lower at 700mg for both men and women. However, in the United States the RDA is somewhat higher at 1000mg per day.

Deficiencies in calcium are increasingly common in the United Kingdom as more and more of us don't consume the levels of calcium our bodies need. Calcium deficiency symptoms include muscle aches and pains, muscle cramps and reduced bone density. A prolonged deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and break very easily. In the past, osteoporosis was mainly associated with the elderly but today children as young as twelve are beginning to develop this serious condition.

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