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Nutr Res Rev. 2009 Dec;22(2):163-74. doi: 10.1017/S0954422409990126.

Molecular mechanisms triggered by low-calcium diets.

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Laboratorio de Metabolismo Fosfocálcico y Vitamina D Dr. F. Cañas, Cátedra de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina.


Ca is not only essential for bone mineralisation, but also for regulation of extracellular and intracellular processes. When the Ca2+ intake is low, the efficiency of intestinal Ca2+ absorption and renal Ca2+ reabsorption is increased. This adaptive mechanism involves calcitriol enhancement via parathyroid hormone stimulation. Bone is also highly affected. Low Ca2+ intake is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. Patients with renal lithiasis may be at higher risk of recurrence of stone formation when they have low Ca2+ intake. The role of dietary Ca2+ on the regulation of lipid metabolism and lipogenic genes in adipocytes might explain an inverse relationship between dairy intake and BMI. Dietary Ca2+ restriction produces impairment of the adipocyte apoptosis and dysregulation of glucocorticosteroid metabolism in the adipose tissue. An inverse relationship between hypertension and a low-Ca2+ diet has been described. Ca2+ facilitates weight loss and stimulates insulin sensitivity, which contributes to the decrease in the blood pressure. There is also evidence that dietary Ca2+ is associated with colorectal cancer. Dietary Ca2+ could alter the ratio of faecal bile acids, reducing the cytotoxicity of faecal water, or it could activate Ca2+-sensing receptors, triggering intracellular signalling pathways. Also it could bind luminal antigens, transporting them into mucosal mononuclear cells as a mechanism of immunosurveillance and promotion of tolerance. Data relative to nutritional Ca2+ and incidences of other human cancers are controversial. Health professionals should be aware of these nutritional complications and reinforce the dairy intakes to ensure the recommended Ca2+ requirements and prevent diseases.

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