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Genes & calcium requirements: Achieving the right balance

Too much calcium can hurt you!

Too much calcium in your blood can weaken youar bones, create kidney stones, and interfere with the way your heart and brain works. This condition is referred to as hypercalcemia, in which calcium in your blood is above normal (8.6-10.2 mg/dl, normal range). Overactive parathyroid glands, glands that are located on or near thyroid glands, often result in hypercalcemia. parathodiGenes regulate the function of the parathyroid glands and thus play a role in maintaining calcium balance in our body. Other causes include cancer, medical disorders, some medications and excessive use of calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Genes and calcium requirements:

The CASR gene produces the calcium sensing receptor (CASR), responsible for regulating the calcium in the blood. This receptor is found abundantly in the parathyroid glands and also found in kidney cells and plays a key role in calcium homeostasis. Individuals carrying one type of this CASR gene are likely to have high levels of calcium in the blood, which indicates an underlying condition of hyperparathyroidism or kidney damage.

Watch out for these symptoms, these might indicate high levels of calcium in your blood:

  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination
  • Stomach upset, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
  • Bone pain and muscle weakness.
  • Confusion, lethargy and fatigue

More severe cases produce these symptoms, whereas a person with mild hypercalcemia might not experience these symptoms. Women in their 50’s are at highest risk of overactive parathyroid glands.

Tests that are recommended:

If your genetic test reveals that you are predisposed to increased calcium levels, consult your physician. It is recommended that you have your calcium, preferably serum calcium, ionized calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) measured via a blood test. Measuring urine calcium can help determine whether the kidneys are excreting the proper amount of calcium.

Did you know?

In Indian scenario, presentation of hyperparathyroidism occurs at a young age and is symptomatic, whereas it has become an asymptomatic disease in the Western world with the introduction of routine calcium screening. In Indian scenario, females were commonly affected and the female : male ratio is 1.7:1 and occurs at an early age when compared to women of the western world.

Lifestyle modifications:

If you develop hypercalcemia, it may be possible to prevent bone and kidney damage by doing the following, in addition to the medications/ treatment plans suggested by your physician.

  • Hydration helps. Drinking fluids can help keep you from dehydration and help prevent kidney stones from forming.
  • Be physically active. It’s important to remain active to help maintain bone density. A combination of strength training with weight-bearing exercises is usually recommended.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking has been shown to increase bone loss.

Want to know what type of  CASR  gene you have,  Xcode’s nutrigenetics test can tell you what versions of the CASR gene you have in your DNA. You can also learn about how your genes may influence other traits, including your risk for certain diseases.  You can write to us at info@xcode.in.

Janani Thiru
Janani Thiru
Janani is a Nutrigenetic Counselor at Xcode, Freelance Writer, Food Scientist and Nutritionist by academics. She received the prestigious Erasmus Mundus Award by the European Commission for her post graduate program in Food Science and Technology in 2010. She worked with Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in Rome and Cambodia previously. Her latest project is an e-book of nutrigenetics she is compiling that will be published next year.