Are you taking a calcium supplement or has your doctor recommended one? You might be surprised to learn that the latest research suggests that calcium supplementation is useless at best, harmful at worst.
A study in the online British Medical Journal found that calcium supplementation in patients over 50 years old had no benefit. Neither did increasing calcium intake from dairy foods. This isn’t the case of a single, controversial, contrarian study either. Dr. Ian Ried of the University of New Zealand at Auckland and his team performed a meta-analysis, where they looked at results from all the high-quality studies they could find, and found the same thing.
The bigger problem though is that since this extra calcium intake is not ending up in the bone tissue, its accumulating in the arteries where it can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease, or it ends up in kidneys where it may lead to the formation of kidney stones.
And yet, a very real problem remains. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 54 million Americans are at risk for developing the bone-thinning condition and half of American women over 50 suffer from a bone fracture because of osteoporosis.
So if calcium supplementation and dairy foods aren’t the answer to the osteoporosis epidemic, what is???
1.) Vitamin D. Among other things, Vitamin D helps increase absorption of calcium by the bone tissue. Its also vitally important to the regulation of the immune system. If you have any sort of chronic inflammatory condition, work indoors and wear sunscreen religiously, you are probably deficient in the crucial pro-hormone. Almost everyone I test for Vitamin D that is not already supplementing it, is at or below 30 ng/mL, the lower cut-off for “normal” Vitamin D levels.
2.) Magnesium. This mineral is necessary for over 400 different enzymatic reactions in the body, including the absorption of calcium. And yet, magnesium itself is blocked from being absorbed by calcium. So if you are relying on the magnesium from your Cal/Mg supplement to supply you magnesium needs, you probably aren’t getting enough magnesium. Magnesium glycinate is the best assimilated form of this nutrient.
3.) Vitamin K2. One of this vitamin’s main jobs is to determine where calcium should go- into the bone tissue or into soft tissue. When a person is deficient in K2, more calcium ends up in the soft tissue rather than the bone tissue. K2 is found almost exclusively in animal foods, in particular the butter from cows grazing on lush, green spring grasses. The more deep yellow or orange your butter is, the more nutrient-dense it is.
4.) Weight-bearing exercise. Walking, running and lifting weights are the best options. Bone tissue operates according to Wolf’s Law, which is basically that the tissue will respond to the magnitude of the loads placed on it. More loading = denser, stronger bone tissue. This is one of the bigger problems with space travel; the lack of gravity means there is not enough loading on the skeletal system and astronauts quickly develop osteoporosis. Given the lack of exercise and even just movement required by most people to function these days, this might be the biggest piece of the osteoporosis puzzle yet.
5.) Posture. Or maybe I should makes this 4B instead of 5. Its not just how much you load the bone tissue, but also the vectors of those loads. Imagine a stack of blocks and how much load they could take if we pressed straight down in the same line as gravity- a compression force. Now imagine if we could put a curve in the stack of blocks how much less compression force the curved column of blocks could handle. Now remember from above, more loading = denser, stronger bones. So proper alignment leads to stronger, denser bone tissue.
And if you have been taking calcium supplements? It might be wise to talk to your doctor about having a calcium score test done. This can tell how much calcium has accumulated in the soft tissue of your arteries and is a much better assessment of heart disease risk then looking at total cholesterol.
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