The wide range of different uses of calcium can roughly be divided into two categories: nutritional benefits and non-nutritional uses, such as chemical or industrial uses. Nutritionally, the largest function of calcium is probably in bone maintenance, but the uses of calcium for the body also encompass muscle health, the heart, and other areas. Outside of nutrition, the uses of calcium can very depending on whether it is in its pure elemental form or within another calcium-containing compound. Chemically, calcium is often used to interact with other chemicals, acting as a reducing agent, deoxidizer, and more. There is a wide variety of calcium compounds spanning a wide range of uses, from serving industrial purposes, such as in cement, to facilitating daily home products, such as toothpaste.
Calcium plays an integral part in bone density; besides a general weakening of the teeth, osteoporosis is one of the most common medical conditions arising from a lack of calcium. Especially during times that bone loss is particularly likely to occur, such as during menopause and with age, calcium consumption is vital to keeping bones strong and healthy. Calcium also plays a vital role in muscle contraction, so a calcium deficiency may result in muscle cramps, numbness and similar symptoms. In addition, given that the heart muscle is probably the most vital in the body, calcium plays a vital role in maintaining healthy, strong contractions, and a deficiency may lead to palpitations.
Calcium is also used in the brain and in transferring neurons, and calcium deficiencies may accordingly result in mental unrest and insomnia. It also plays a vital role in keeping the acidic content of the body at bay, and individuals who have consumed a high amount of acidic food need calcium to neutralize those acids. Some more indirect uses of calcium include reducing the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome and the risk of high blood pressure.
The uses of calcium also move far into the chemical and commercial aspects of the world. In chemical interaction, calcium is often used as a reducing agent in extracting metals such as zirconium or uranium. As an alloying agent, it helps to produce aluminum, copper, lead, and other alloys. Calcium can also deoxidize, desulfurize, or decarbonize in order to produce certain alloys containing iron.
Calcium carbonate is found in chalk, marble, and limestone among others. It is used in the manufacture of paint, plastic, rubber, ceramics, and many other products; it can also be used to neutralize soil that is acidic. Another commonly used compound, calcium chloride, is used in cement, antifreeze, refrigerators, and fire extinguishers. Calcium glycerophosphate and calcium lactate are two compounds commonly used in dentrifices and for preserving or stabilizing food. In terms of industrial use, calcium oxide is probably the most prominent, playing a part in creating bricks, mortar, and plaster, as well as insecticides and fungicides.