Do We Really Get Calcium From Milk and Dairy Products?

Soil is the original source of all calcium, which is then absorbed by plants and incorporated into their tissues. Animals then eat the plants to obtain their calcium and other minerals. There is sufficient calcium in plants to grow the skeletons of the biggest animals on earth such as the elephant. It is not hard to therefore accept that there is sufficient calcium in plants to grow a human skeleton. In fact most humans who have walked this earth have been able to grow strong healthy skeletons without cow’s milk or calcium supplements.

Calcium is involved in bone formation and nerve, muscle and blood vessel function. Levels of calcium are maintained by the gastrointestinal tract, bone and kidney. If our diet is low in calcium then more will be absorbed from the gut and less excreted from the kidneys. Conversely if excess calcium is consumed, less will be absorbed and more excreted. However there is the potential for a dangerous increase in free calcium.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. 99% of the body’s pool of calcium is stored in bones (about 1 kg). Of the remaining 1%, 55% of it is bound to protein and organic ions. Only 45% is free (unbound).

Unbound calcium is particularly dangerous because it gets deposited in tissues, including arteries, and therefore increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. An increase of free calcium by 2% causes a massive deposition. Is there much point advising people to supplement with calcium when it ends up going to the arteries and not to the bones? There are implications against taking regular high dose calcium supplementation because it appears to be going everywhere except bones. Dolomite or coral calcium in particular is a problem as they are essentially finely ground up rock which is poorly absorbed with any that is absorbed usually ending up in tissues other than bones.

In Western countries the usual intake of calcium is around 800-1000mg/day while in developed countries it is around 300-500mg/day. Some women in Africa and Japan have intakes of around 200mg/day and do not get osteoporosis.

Most of the scientific literature supports the belief that the majority of the older population is massively overdosed on calcium and suffering from calcium toxicity. Excess calcium in arterial walls is directly correlated to increased risk of heart disease and chronic degenerative diseases. Many breast cancers have calcium deposits in and around them. Research on the use of calcium in preventing osteoporosis is not conclusive whereas the research is convincing that supplemental calcium fuels the progression of atherosclerosis and therefore heart attacks. Studies also show that calcium supplementation is unlikely to reduce the risk of fracture, either in childhood or later life. These studies also pointed out that populations that consume the most cow’s milk and other dairy products have among the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fracture in later life.

Osteoporosis is NOT caused by an inadequate intake of dairy products. Populations in countries that do not have access to dairy products do not develop osteoporosis. Australia and the US are the 2 countries with the highest intake of dairy products and have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Dairy foods do contain calcium but they also contain acidic proteins which cause a net loss of calcium from bone as calcium is pulled from the bones to lower the acidity caused by the acidic milk proteins.

Studies have found no relationship between the intake of dairy products and the strength of children’s bones and that postmenopausal women who consumed 3 extra glasses of cow’s milk/day for a year lost more bone than those who didn’t drink the extra milk.

The bottom line if you want to make sure you are getting your daily intake of calcium then get it from plants and nuts not dairy. Plants contain lots of readily absorbable calcium so if you are eating green leafy vegetables, broccoli or seaweed you are more than enough calcium.

The Question and Answer Guide to Calcium Supplements!

Calcium Q & A

There is so much misleading information around us, and for the sake of making a profit we the consumers are very often taught to believe that we are giving our body what it needs when in fact we are actually doing little that is helpful to ourselves. Here we will clarify most of the misleading info about calcium.

Which type of Calcium is best?

Mineral supplements such as calcium are made from many different forms of the mineral. Common mineral forms are citrate, malate, gluconate, carbonate, bis-glycinate, micro-crystaline hydroxyapitate, and oxide.

What defines one form as being better than another is mainly it’s ability to be broken down during digestion small enough to cross cell walls and to be absorbed by the human body. The best forms for this are citrate, malate, and bis-glycinate (bis-glycinate is also referred to as chelate, or amino-acid chelate). These have the highest bio-availability (absorbability), and are so close to each other in this that they are all excellent choices.

It doesn’t pay to take other forms of calcium since the body will get limited or no access to the actual mineral. The same recommendation applies to the mineral Magnesium; citrate, malate, and bis-glycinate are best.

Minerals other than calcium may at times have benefits in other forms.

Why does it just say calcium on my bottle, and nothing else?

Better forms are always listed by manufacturers. If a supplement label does not list the form of its vitamins or minerals, then it contains the cheapest, and usually least absorbable form. In this case, calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide.

The most well known form of the mineral calcium and the one put to the most use is calcium carbonate (and of magnesium is magnesium oxide). When calcium and magnesium supplements were pioneered in the first half of the twentieth century these were the forms that were technologically available and used in supplements. It was considered groundbreaking for the industry at the time.

Nowadays, these two forms are considered ancient technology for supplements, as they are the poorest absorbed forms of each mineral respectively, by the human body. They are still used today because they are the cheapest for a manufacturer to purchase.

Does one form of calcium have more calcium than another?

The mineral level of calcium carbonate is the highest of all forms at about 40% elemental (meaning that 40% of calcium carbonate is pure calcium). The next nearest in elemental level is calcium citrate at about 20%.

However, since the carbonate form of calcium is so poorly absorbed by the human body, we’re not actually getting most of that calcium.

Calcium citrate on the other hand is so much more bio-available that even at 20% elemental, calcium citrate provides more calcium to the body than calcium carbonate at 40% elemental, and by a sizable margin.

Calcium malate is similar in elemental level to calcium citrate and may even be more bio-available than citrate.

A bis-glycinate (or amino acid chelate) is not a specific form of mineral but a mineral that has been bonded to an amino-acid which carries the mineral across the cell wall. (Amino-acids are the building blocks of protein, protein is what makes up our muscles and soft tissue).

Why is calcium carbonate so popular with manufacturers?

For starters, it’s the cheapest. Manufacturers also use calcium carbonate for another reason. It allows them to create a simple marketing ploy. Due to calcium carbonates high mineral level, a manufacturer can put 500 mg and sometimes up to 600 mg of this highly nonabsorbent calcium in one tablet. Who wouldn’t be enticed by the statement “you only need two tablets to get your daily dose of calcium?”..when the industry standard is four tablets.

Why are calcium and magnesium tablets always so big?

The problem lies in the fact that as minerals go calcium and magnesium are extremely bulky. They simply cannot be condensed enough to be very small. These mineral products are kept on the bigger side in order to minimize the number of tablets needed to get a required dose. As well, if they were to be divided up into multiple, smaller tablets, we would need to take twice as many tablets to get the recommended amounts of calcium, and magnesium. The problem then is that most people just won’t do it. We’ll take too few, or none, and either way not get the calcium amounts that our bodies need.

Should I take calcium with magnesium?

It’s best to take them together. The body needs both. It also needs to maintain calcium and magnesium in the blood stream in roughly a 2:1 ratio. We should have give or take two times the calcium than magnesium. They work in concert with one another for many functions of the body. For example, calcium is required/utilized by the body in order for us to contract our muscles (to use our muscles) and magnesium is necessary for muscle relaxation. One theory even says that if we take in only calcium, raising our calcium level without raising our magnesium level with it, then the body will release calcium from places (such as bone) and evacuate it out of the body in order to maintain the required 2:1 blood ratio, causing a net calcium loss.

Why do calcium supplements seem to always come with vitamin D3?

Vitamin D3 helps with the body’s ability to absorb the mineral calcium (not the other way around). Vitamin D3 is also essential for the body’s effective usage of calcium.

Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is a synthetic version of the fat soluble vitamin-d and is utilized by plants. The natural version, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), is what is utilized by animals and humans. Because it’s natural, the D3 form is not patentable. Drug companies (or anyone else) can patent D2, and have. It’s the reason D2 is what a pharmacy provides.

Can I get my calcium by eating antacid tablets like Tums?

These products use calcium carbonate which is extremely difficult for the body to absorb. This is even if taken with meals when there are digestive enzymes and gastric acid present to breakdown food and absorb nutrients. Moreover, people do not usually take Tums with meals but rather in-between meals as an antacid, when there is no digestion taking place. When taken this way there is actually no gain in calcium benefit to the body.

Calcium like this, that is not well-absorbed, can dilute stomach acid and inhibit digestion, resulting in more of the problem the antacid was originally taken to help. As well, this excess calcium in the blood due to poor absorption (instead of in the cells), can end up as plaque in our arteries. (Also, these antacid products contain lots of sugar, talc, mineral oil, synthetic dyes & artificial flavors.)

What are good food sources of Calcium?

Yogurt and other dairy products, sardines and salmon with bones, green leafy vegetables – the darker the green the better the source (eg. Spinich), fermented soy such as miso, natto, and tempeh, legumes (beans), nuts, broccoli and oranges.

How much calcium do I need?

The National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine recommendations in 2010 are:

Years of age ————– Calcium required per day

1-3 ——————————– 700 mg

4-8 ——————————- 1,000 mg

9-18 —————————— 1,800 mg

19-50 —————————– 1,000 mg

51 & older (women) —————- 1,200 mg

51 – 70 (men) ———————- 1,000 mg

71 – years ————————– 1,200 mg


Women 14 – 18 ——————— 1,300 mg


Women 19 – 50 ———————- 1,000 mg

Now you can not only get the calcium you need but the calcium your body can put to use.

Kidney Stones – Calcium Supplements

Basically when one develops kidney stones in their system, the dietitian will recommend foods that have calcium supplements such as milk, yogurt and cheese. They should be taken under strict guidelines of gender, age, size of the body and the kind of kidney stone that one is suffering from. Nevertheless, It’s a proven fact that men and women who take these foods in large quantities have a lower chance of been affected.

You should watch your intake of proteins from animals and salt as well. Young men who take the prescribed foods above, have a much lower chance of being affected than men who are over sixty years of age. You need to know that when taking these foods, there is oxalate present, which might find its way to the blood but is fortunately exerted from the system in the form of urine.

Did you know that dairy products provide 80% of calcium supplements in the diet? They help in reducing the oxalate level. Therefore, do not avoid these foods as you might cause yourself to suffer bone loss for you who might be suffering from kidney stones and automatically, resorption. Resorption is the breakdown of the bone which discharges calcium into the bloodstream.

So how much should one take? At least 1,200 mg daily. Women who take 20%, have been found to be at a higher risk of developing kidney stones owing to the fact that they may be taking them in the morning, either without food or with breakfast, which are low in oxalate. Chances of developing them are lower if taken after the main meals. People who genetically developed them are advised to reduce their intake of kidney stones calcium supplements for they end up being absorbed by the intestines.