Calcium supplementation may increase the risk of heart attack by 30% according to the British Medical Journal (July, 2011), which published the results of a combination of several studies involving over 8000 people who took only 500mg of calcium daily. Here’s some important information about calcium:
- The RDA for calcium is 1000mg per day. The folks who were in the studies took only 500mg of calcium per day.
- Many studies actually link excess calcium and calcium supplements to low bone density.
- Food in its natural, non-processed form is the best source of calcium according to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Some calcium supplements are actually quite good especially combined with good dietary sources of calcium. The bone density levels were the highest with the combo.
Osteoporosis is a modern disease
According to a new study in the 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who got 830mg’s of calcium a day from plant sources had higher hip and spine bone densities than women who took 1030mg’s of a calcium supplement per day.
Interestingly, women who took both a calcium supplement and food sources of calcium had the highest levels of bone density and the highest intake of calcium.
In Asia, where the calcium intake from food (without supplementation) is only about 200mg’s per day, they achieve the greatest bone density levels much later on in life. This is just the opposite in the west – the older you get, the greater the bone density risk.
Osteoporosis is a modern disease. The term was actually coined in the 1830’s, meaning porous bone. There is no word for it in Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine.
So how did we create osteoporosis?
Calcium supplements actually weaken our bones over time.
The Dutch researcher, Thijs Klompmaker claims that excess calcium is the cause of osteoporosis. He says excess calcium supplementation causes the bone’s osteoclasts (cells that break bone down) to increase in an attempt to remove old bone. This is the body’s emergency effort to make use of all this new calcium and make new bone with its osteoblasts (cells that make new bone).
With supplementation, the bone feels hurried to make use of the excess calcium. Hence, the cycle of bone re-absorption and rebuilding of new bone is quickened. As a result, bone density will initially increase. This is why researchers have told us to take calcium – its proven! But with each bone re-absorption and rebuilding cycle, 60-70% of the bone-building osteoblasts die. The body has a limited number of osteoblastic cycles it can go through in a lifetime.
If we excessively stimulate this cycle with calcium supplementation, the bone density will be greater when starting calcium supplementation but later in life as these cycles slow down, the bone density will decrease. The body will stop using calcium from supplements and new bone building will slow down because these cycles (osteoblasts) have been depleted.
The result: Calcium will build bone initially but may predispose us to osteoporosis with long-term calcium supplementation as we get older.
As these bone-building cycles slow down, the excess calcium has to deposit somewhere, which causes a host of problems. Excess calcium can deposit in arteries as plaque and increase the strain on the heart muscle predisposing the heart to hypertension and heart attack. Excesses can also deposit in the soft tissue, causing arthritis, muscle cramping, fibromyalgia, brain gravel (calcium deposits in the brain), kidney stones, breast lumps, and of course osteoporosis.
Good Food Sources of Calcium
In nature calcium is never delivered alone. It is always accompanied by a symphony of minerals that are bound to a carrier molecule that delivers the mineral into cells. By using plant-based calcium, you are always aligning yourself with the intelligence of nature.
Eat more leafy greens, kale, spinach, collard greens, kelp, broccoli and soybeans. While dairy products are extremely high in calcium, there is much controversy over whether or not the pasteurization and homogenization process renders the calcium more difficult to digest.
Amount of Calcium in Foods
- Collard Greens: 1 cup = 266 mg.
- Spinach: 1 cup = 245 mg.
- Blackstrap Molasses: 1 Tbsp = 137 mg.
- Kelp: 1 cup = 136 mg.
- Tahini: 2 Tbsp = 126 mg.
- Broccoli: 2 cups = 124 mg.
- Swiss Chard: 1 cup = 102 mg.
- Kale: 1 cup = 94 mg.
- Brazil Nuts: 12 nuts = 90 mg.
- Celery: 2 cups = 81 mg.
- Almonds: 23 nuts = 75 mg.
- Papaya: 1 papaya (med) = 73 mg.
- Flax Seeds: 2 Tbsp = 52 mg.
- Oranges: 1 orange (med) = 52 mg.
Which Calcium Supplements to Avoid
In nature, inorganic or elemental calcium is always bound to a carrier molecule like amino acids, glyconutrients and fats. Any calcium supplement that does not fall into this category may either not absorb well or disturb the body’s very subtle calcium and bone density balance, which I described above.
Calcium carbonate is to be avoided. It is from limestone, oyster shell, egg shells or bone meal, which is known as hydroylapatite. Please avoid these forms of calcium.
Fortified milk and juice products are typically fortified with calcium carbonate and not easily utilized by the body.
How to get the right amount of the right kind of calcium:
- Look for a calcium or mineral supplement that is bound to a naturally occurring carrier molecule. Look for a product that has a low RDA and high absorption. I prefer calcium supplements that are not simply calcium alone or calcium with magnesium. Rather the calcium should be combined with a roster of minerals that are delivered and used in synergy with each other and with the body’s intelligence. In nature this happens naturally, therefore any plant-based calcium supplement will be acceptable.
- Be sure you have optimized vitamin D3 levels. Vitamin D3 carries the calcium out of the gut and into the cells for delivery. Without adequate vitamin D3, studies show that calcium utilization is compromised. See my archived newsletter on vitamin D3.
- In a recent video/newsletter called “Minerals: You are Probably Deficient” I discussed how many of us can have chronic mineral deficiencies. It is important to take the right type of mineral support. Sadly, proper supplementation may be required for optimal health because our soils are now depleted in many of the essential minerals, even organic.
- A calcium source called microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC) is becoming a popular calcium source that is used in osteoporosis formulas. It come from veal bones and carries a natural array of minerals in a delivery system that works with the body’s bone density regulating intelligence.