Inadequate supply or metabolism of calcium, the main structural element of bones and teeth. Its metabolism is regulated by vitamin D, phosphorus, and hormones (see parathyroid gland). Calcium in the blood has roles in muscle contraction, nerve-impulse transmission, blood clotting, milk production, hormone secretion, and enzyme function, for which calcium is pulled from the bones if deficiency develops. Chronic deficiency may be a factor in the development of osteoporosis or osteomalacia (softening of bone) and may contribute to hypertension and colon cancer. Severe calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia), usually the result of a metabolic problem rather than a dietary deficiency, causes numbness, tingling, and painful muscle aches and spasms.
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