When you were a child, did you ever notice a small white spot on one of your fingernails? Did you rush to your mom and ask her what it was? Surely, she must have pulled your ear and given you quite a bit of thrashing for not finishing your daily glass of milk. “There’s not enough calcium in your body,” she must have said. Call your mom right away because we are about to bust that myth.
Unlike what almost everyone has believed so far, the white spots on your nails have nothing to do with calcium deficiency. They are, most commonly, proof of an earlier injury to the matrix of your nail that is finally showing as it starts growing out.
Dietitian Dr Priyanka Rohtagi, chief clinical dietician at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore, refutes the myth entirely. “It’s a common misconception that the white spots are indicative of calcium deficiency. They could mean a lot of things, including an injury to the nails, a fungal infection and allergy to a particular food item or nail paints. It can even be genetic. It could point towards a deficiency of some kind in very rare cases, but that need not necessarily be calcium-related. It could be any mineral, such as zinc or biotin. ”
Dr DM Mahajan, senior consultant of dermatology at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, says the most common reason for leukonychia (the right term for these white spots) is an old injury. Maybe you jammed your hand in a door hinge, maybe you slapped someone too hard. The part of your nail underneath the fold may hurt at the moment, but you forget about it soon enough. However, the injured part starts climbing up slowly with the growth of the nail, and when it suddenly appears, you can’t remember the injury that caused it anymore.
But how did this myth come into existence? Dr Priyanka thinks the colour of the spot and the whiteness often associated with calcium-rich products may have some part to play.
So, is there any test you can run at home to check if you are low on calcium? No, says Dr Mahajan. “Sometimes people get muscular cramps that could point towards calcium deficiency. But even then, one needs to take a few lab tests to know for sure,” he says.
As much as 90% of the calcium in your body is found in the bones. A good, regular Indian diet contains enough calcium to keep you healthy. However, if you suffer from fractures a little too often, you may need to get a dexa scan done to check the density of your bones. If it is abnormally low, your physician will guide you accordingly.
So, white spot or not, keep chugging your milk and gobbling down that matar-paneer to keep calcium deficiency away!