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The World Health Organisation (WHO) have released a paper outlining possible plans to add calcium and/or magnesium to the water supply in order to contribute to people’s daily intake.
The assembly gathered to discuss whether the consumption of drinking water supplemented by these nutrients would provide possible health benefits especially in connection to cardiovascular disease mortality (the so-called “hard water cardiovascular disease benefits hypothesis”), particularly those people with low nutrient diets.
While diets are varied and can easily contain plenty of calcium through dairy, leafy vegetables and oily fish. However according to the document,
“Individuals vary considerably in their needs for and consumption of these elements. Available evidence suggests that, because of food habits, many people in most countries fail to obtain from their diets the recommended intakes of one or both of these nutrients. While the concentrations of calcium and magnesium in drinking-water vary markedly from one supply to another, mineral-rich drinking-waters may provide substantial contributions to total intakes of these nutrients in some populations or population subgroups. Water treatment processes can affect mineral concentrations and, hence, the total intake of calcium and magnesium for some individuals.”
On the basis of the findings of the World Health Organization (WHO) meeting of experts held in Rome, Italy, in 2003 to discuss nutrients in drinking water (WHO 2005), the present group focused its consideration on calcium and magnesium, for which, next to fluoride, evidence of health benefits associated with their presence in drinking-water is strongest. The present group also noted that the issue of fluoride was addressed by the Rome meeting in detail and adopted its review and recommendations (see below). In addition, the group concluded that other elements may also have health relevance and should be considered by future groups.
Over 99% of total body calcium is found in bones and teeth, where it functions as a key structural element. The remaining body calcium functions in metabolism, serving as a signal for vital physiological processes, including vascular contraction, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Inadequate intakes of calcium have been associated with increased risks of osteoporosis, nephrolithiasis (kidney stones), colorectal cancer, hypertension and stroke, coronary artery disease, insulin resistance and obesity.
Most of these disorders have treatments but no cures. Owing to a lack of compelling evidence for the role of calcium as a single contributory element in relation to these diseases, estimates of calcium requirement have been made on the basis of bone health outcomes, with the goal of optimizing bone mineral density. Calcium is unique among nutrients, in that the body’s reserve is also functional: increasing bone mass is linearly related to reduction in fracture risk.