A lack of calcium — a usually plentiful mineral in the human body — can lead to severe discomfort or death. The bones are most often affected, because osteoporosis or osteomalacia can occur, resulting in bones that are easily fractured. The muscles are also affected by low calcium levels, resulting in muscle cramps and unexpected spasms that can be uncomfortable and even fatal. Other problems caused by low calcium, such as hypertension, colon cancer and depression, can also be fatal in the worst cases. For these reasons, it is important to ensure there is an adequate amount of calcium in one's diet.
Many of the effects of low calcium levels involve the bones, because sufficient intake of this mineral keeps them strong and healthy. Osteoporosis, which is a degeneration of the bones, is often found in adults with low calcium intake. Women going through menopause are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis, because hormonal changes tend to strip calcium from the bones and see it absorbed into the bloodstream. Osteomalacia, the demineralization of the bones, can also result, leading to bones that are painful and easily fractured. This condition in children is known as rickets, but the symptoms are the same as those experienced by adults with osteomalacia.
The muscles are also often affected by a lack of calcium in the body. Occasional muscle cramps are common in people who do not ingest enough of this mineral. In fact, some people suffer from tetany, which leads to muscle spasms. The result may be mild — leading to occasional tingling in the toes, fingers and lips — or it could be fatal, such as when the pharyngeal or laryngeal muscles suddenly spasm. For this reason, a lack of calcium is usually considered a serious issue that should be fixed quickly.
Other problems resulting from a lack of calcium can also be fatal. For example, hypertension may result because calcium controls the contraction of blood vessels, meaning the risk of heart attacks or strokes is increased. Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat are often noticed when there is not enough calcium in the body. Colon cancer is also a possible effect of a lack of calcium, because this mineral can prevent bile acids from building up in the bowels. Finally, depression and anxiety can also result and should be diagnosed and treated before becoming serious enough to end in suicide.