In today’s article we focus on such an important topic as calcium and growth of baby. We’ll tell you what calcium is for and how it encourages the stable body growth of a little one. You will learn whether your baby receives sufficient quantity of calcium, and whether it is necessary to give him additional portion of calcium. Let’s discuss this issue in details.
The role of calcium
Our body grows and is formed during the whole life, and particularly in the first years of life. Calcium is involved in almost 300 various biological processes in the body. The main ones are the formation of bone tissue as well as tooth dentin and enamel. Calcium is involved in muscle contraction, nerve and muscle conduction, it maintains muscle tone at the proper level. Calcium ions participate in blood clotting, decrease vascular permeability and control acid-base balance. Calcium activates many enzymes and hormones of endocrine glands; moreover, it has anti-stress, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic action, as well as it generates learning skills and short term memory.
The human body contains from 1000 to 1300 mg of calcium, 99% of it is in the skeleton in the form of various compounds, and the remaining 1% is distributed throughout the body – muscles and tissues. There are two types of calcium – ionized (or free) and attached to proteins, mainly to albumin. The total amount of ionized calcium should be about 50% of its whole amount in blood plasma. Namely this indicator is used to assess the state of hypocalcemia – the lack of calcium; it reflects the actual amount of calcium in the cells and membranes.
Without calcium the processes of cell division and protein synthesis are impossible. So, if there is a lack of calcium in the baby’s body, the whole process of metabolism can be disturbed very soon!
What does calcium deficiency cause?
The lack of this element in blood (hypocalcemia) causes delay in baby’s body growth, violation of bone and teeth formation, the proper work of the heart muscle, increased muscle excitability, and sometimes even convulsions. Symptoms of hypocalcemia are: fatigue, hair loses its silkiness and gloss and begins to fall out, nails become brittle, the skin loses its elasticity, the lens loses its transparency, little holes and shallow grooves appear on the enamel of the teeth.
Normal concentration of calcium in the blood is preserved if the body receives from 500 to 1000 mg of calcium per day. This amount is retained in the body and its excess is excreted in the urine. If a body is lacking calcium, a variety of skeletal deformities and changes in the blood vessels structure can appear.
Calcium is absorbed in the small intestine with the help of specific protein – calcitropin, synthesis of which depends on the vitamin D. Daily intake of vitamin D is found in one liter of fresh milk or is produced by the body in 40-60 minutes after being in the sun. Vitamin D deficiency leads to disruption of calcium and phosphorus metabolism in the liver, kidneys, intestine, that reduces the digestibility of calcium.
Calcium and phosphorus are deposited in the bone tissue thus reinforcing it. Insufficient intake of calcium during the childhood can lead to further bone fragility and possible frequent fractures.
The skeleton and bone tissue constantly grow throughout a person’s life. The nature of human bone is that it is permanently destroyed and restored. The speed of this process varies greatly depending on the age: more than 100% of calcium turnover can be there in babies’ bones during the first year of life; turnover of calcium in the body of older children is 10% per year, and of adults – 2 – 3%.
Intake of calcium per day
Norm of intake
|From 0 to 6 months||400 mg|
|From 6 months to 1 year||600 mg|
|From 1 year to 10 years||800 mg|
|11-25 years||1200 mg|
Violations of calcium and phosphorus metabolism in babies are the result of an unbalanced diet of a pregnant woman, as well as the lack of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, B1, B2, B6 in her diet. Therefore, an expectant mother must daily eat at least 180 grams of meat, 30-50 grams of cheese, 300 grams of bread, 500 grams of vegetables, and drink 0.5 liters of milk or other dairy products.
And not only the amount of calcium in the food is important, but also the process of its digestion. The absorption and assimilation of calcium from food are affected by plenty of dietary fiber – vegetables, fruits and grains, and also phytin, especially in semolina. Furthermore, salts of phosphoric acid contained in fish and meat products. But oxalic acid contained in chocolate, cocoa, and spinach impede calcium absorption. Caffeine and Coke increase the excretion of calcium in the urine, and excess of fatty food prevent absorption of calcium in the intestine by formation insoluble calcium compounds. Excess salt and protein in food also hinders the absorption of calcium. But lactose – milk sugar, on the contrary, promotes the absorption of calcium. It is therefore very important that there is lot of milk and dairy products in baby’s diet.
Nutrition and calcium
Breast milk is the most ideal for calcium absorption. Its amount is not so much there, but it is absorbed almost completely. Breastfed babies up to six months receive enough quantity of calcium. Bottle-fed babies eat baby formula enriched with calcium. However, it is absorbed worse. Once a baby is half a year old, it is recommended to introduce complementary foods into his diet: vegetables and cereals enriched with calcium.
Our body is able to absorb more calcium from dairy products, especially those containing phosphorus – cottage cheese and milk. Highly digestible foods are those that contain calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. They are mainly animal products – fish and beef liver, seafood, butter, egg yolk. Also foods containing both calcium and phosphorus are useful – apples, peas, beans, whole grain wheat, cucumbers, all kinds of cabbage (especially color cabbage), celery, lettuce, radishes, cheese, white cheese.
If the baby does not like dairy products
If your baby does not like or does not eat dairy products, then oatmeal, beans, dried fruit, nuts, eggs and fish are a good source of calcium. However, it is quite difficult to fully meet all the needs for calcium only with the help of food for your baby. It’s about a liter of milk a day, or nearly a pound of cheese or cottage cheese, fish oil and a couple of eggs. The baby is unlikely to cope with this menu. So there are products enriched with minerals and vitamins, food supplements and vitamins and minerals complexes for this purpose. But you necessarily should consult with your pediatrician to choose products that will be the best for your baby.