The Misunderstood Benefits and Risks of Calcium

Calcium and Osteoporosis – The Misunderstood Benefits and Risks of Calcium Supplementation

There are many interesting facts you may not know about Calcium supplementation and osteoporosis.


  • Calcium supplementation is big business
  • 50% of all women over age 65 and 25% of all men will experience at least one osteoporotic fracture in their life time
  • The governments’ understanding of micronutrient requirements as expressed in the RDI’s is archaic
  • Most if not all RDI’s for vitamins and minerals are woefully low, while the RDI of 1,000-1,500mg per day of calcium could be dangerously high
  • FACT: Bantu women in Africa have lower estrogen levels than U.S. women both before and after menopause. They consume less than 500mg per day of calcium yet osteoporotic fractures are extremely rare.

    FACT: The Japanese dietary calcium intake is 540mg per day yet their hip fracture rate is half of western countries.

    FACT: A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that post-menopausal women who took 2,000mg of calcium per day had the same rate of bone loss as those on placebo.

    FACT: A study done by the Mayo Clinic on 106 women of various ages demonstrated that over a 2.6 to 6.6 year observation period there was no correlation between calcium supplementation and the rate of bone loss.

    FACT: Calcium by itself doesn’t work very well. A study of 26 post-menopausal women who were placed on HRT and a “bone healthy” diet demonstrated a meager increase of BMD (Bone Mineral Density) of .7%. The group that was given a mixture of calcium and other supportive and synergistic micronutrients demonstrated an increase in BMD 16 times greater than the control.

    FACT: A 1981 study of calcium versus calcium and supportive co-factors demonstrated that the mixture increased BMD 200-300% greater than calcium alone.

    DANGER: Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is caused by calcification of these and other soft tissues throughout the body.

    DANGER: When calcium is supplemented by itself and is not being incorporated into the bone matrix, the difference between what is consumed and excreted contributes not only to arteriosclerosis but accelerated aging of soft tissues throughout the body.

    FACT: Two forms of a lesser known vitamin have been shown to be 56-74% deficient in people with osteoporosis.

    FACT: This same vitamin has been shown to increase the absorption of calcium into the osteocalcin matrix by 50% in just 14 days.

    FACT: This same vitamin has been shown in vitro and in animals to draw calcium out of soft tissues and reverse calcification.

    FACT: Several studies have shown that absorption of calcium by humans decreases with age. Calcium absorption can be enhanced by a particular kind of health promoting fiber.

    FACT: Deposition of calcium into the bone matrix is only half of the BMD equation. Bone Resorption (the loss of bone) must also be addressed!

    FACT: Two herbs with substantial health promoting benefits in areas other than BMD have been shown in vitro and in animals to decrease osteoclast (cells that consume bone) activity and decrease bone resorption. This is a mechanism similar to the bisphosponate drugs like Fosamax. But these drugs have side effects like esophageal irritation and are also expensive.

    FACT: Slowing down calcification and glycation (the aging effects of sugar on the organs of our body) is a major anti-aging benefit.

    FACT: Homocysteine which is a marker or indicator of many chronic degenerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and diabetes , is also higher in patients with osteoporosis. A combination of three common vitamins has been clinically shown to reduce homocysteine.

    FACT: In addition to the role it plays in bones, Calcium is essential to over-all health and longevity. But calcium must be taken correctly and with the proper supporting co-factors, biochemically, synergistic ingredients.

    It perplexes me as to why some physicians and even dieticians and nutritionists aren’t a bit more careful when they tell patients or customers to take 1000-1500mg of calcium per day because it’s “healthy for their bones”?

    The assumption being made is that all or most of this large amount of calcium being recommended is actually getting into the bones. Many healthcare professionals will also recommend that the calcium be coupled with a Vitamin D, because it helps to increase the absorption of calcium into the blood (which is true).

    The question not being asked or answered is where is this calcium going once its in the blood and available systemically? Is it possible that some of this calcium is NOT winding up in the bones but in the lining of the arteries instead? This is a process known as arterial calcification which can cause arterial dysfunction. The answer is a resounding YES! Let’s take a look at what needs to happen for calcium to deposit into the bones and alternatively, not into the lining of the arteries!

    Calcium is a positively charged atom called a cation. It’s charge is +2 (divalent). In order for calcium to be absorbed into the bone matrix, a protein named osteocalcin has to undergo a process called carboxylation to be able to bind with the calcium. When osteocalcin is “under” carboxylated, the calcium will not be absorbed well or at all. Another protein called Matrix Gla Protein is found in the arterial cell wall, MGP maintains healthy soft tissue calcium metabolism protecting against arterial calcification.

    So what do the bones and the arteries have in common regarding calcium??? Vitamin K! Via the process of carboxylation, Vitamin K assures that both osteocalcin is carboxylated so that calcium can be deposited into the bone matrix, and matrix Gla via carboxylation is synthesized to prevent the deposition of calcium into the arteries.

    While Vitamin D is necessary, plays a role in the carboxylation process and has many other wellness benefits… healthy calcium metabolism both in bones and arteries is very dependent upon Vitamin K. It seems that Vitamin K-2 (menaquinones) may have more cardiovascular benefit while Vitamin K-1 phylloquinone may work better for bones… so a combination of Vitamin K-1* and K-2 * might be advisable to a dosage of at least 1mg of K-1, plus 100mcg (micrograms) of a form of K-2.*

    Taking therapeutic amounts of Vitamin K has been shown to significantly reduce fracture rates at the hip and spine, yet it does not seem to increase Bone Mineral Density (BMD). This does not surprise me because BMD does not accurately measure the architecture of the bones, just the mineral presence. Obviously, the mechanism of Vitamin K is working in a different manner. Additionally, other health benefits for Vitamin K are being written about in the literature. It seems that this vitamin may be involved in prevention of osteoarthritis, has anti-inflammatory mechanisms, may be of real benefit in preventing prostate cancer, and deficiencies may be involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s.

    To sum up, calcium intake of greater than 500-600mg per day is not necessary or useful in preventing bone fractures. Adding at least 5000 IU per day of Vitamin D-3, and at least 1-2 mg of Vitamin K, and 500mg per day of Magnesium to your daily diet will give you the protection against bone fractures that you need.

    For these reasons, and to insure that calcium ends up in your bones and not lining your arteries, it is very important to take a properly formulated supplement. A supplement with the right combination of high quality vitamins and minerals at the proper doses for healthier bones and ultimately to prevent fractures.

    Foods High in Calcium

    Calcium is the most prevalent mineral in our bodies. Our bones are a very important storage location for the almost one kilogram of calcium in the average adult body.

    If we fail to take in enough calcium we risk developing osteoporosis, which is a disease of the bone that leaves them in a weakened condition and much more subject to breaking.

    Although most common in women after menopause, osteoporosis can also develop in men and can also develop in anyone with certain hormonal disorders or some other chronic conditions. Because osteoporosis so greatly affects the structure and strength of the bones, the disease can have a very negative effect on both life expectancy as well as the quality of life.

    Perhaps counter intuitively, research has found a relationship between a diet that is high in animal protein (meat) and elevated calcium loss. On the other hand, diets that rely more on cereals, vegetables and fruits have been shown to promote bone density

    Given the importance of calcium to our overall health, it is a very good idea to know what foods high in calcium are on your menu.

    While dairy is the most traditional source of calcium, other foods high in calcium are:

    • seaweeds like kelp and wakame
    • broccoli
    • beans
    • oranges
    • nuts
    • figs
    • molasses

    Obviously most of these foods are not well represented in the modern diet which brings up the case for calcium supplement.

    If your diet does not have enough of the foods high in calcium it is a very good idea to add a calcium supplement daily.

    While there is a large number of calcium supplements available, one of the best is refined chia seed.

    Chia is a plant native to South America, Mexico and the Southwestern U.S. For many hundreds of years, it was used as a primary food source by the native populations, including the Aztecs.

    Chia is classified by the FDA as a raw, whole food and is very high in calcium, having some six times the calcium as milk.

    Chia is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Iron, Magnesium, dietary fiber, and Potassium.

    Calcium Sources – Learn about Some Healthful Calcium Sources

    We are often told by health specialists to introduce calcium-rich foods to our diet if we want to develop strong bones and teeth. Calcium not only helps in developing a strong skeletal system, but it also helps in protecting it from various diseases including degenerative disease. Calcium sources are broadly categorized as animal and plant sources.

    Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, mustard greens, and Brussels are rich plant sources of calcium. One of the widely-known animal calcium sources is milk. Doctors normally advise to intake more vegetables than dairy products because in addition to useful nutrients, they also contain some contaminants, cholesterol and fat.

    These substances might be dangerous for obese people and those who do not like to exercise on a regular basis. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid animal sources of calcium as much as you can. Red meat, eggs and other dairy products are rich in protein and may cause calcium loss in your body.

    Another source of obtaining calcium is to consume supplements rich in coral calcium. Coral calcium is essentially a salt mainly composed of calcium carbonate and has many health benefits associated with it.

    If you have adequate amounts of calcium in your body you will be at a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis. Since calcium sources in food are hard to find and consume, doctors now suggest taking calcium-rich supplements. These are easy to consume and provide all the benefits of developing strong bones, and improving posture and strength. These products also contain other minerals and vitamins, for example vitamin D and K2 for the enhancement of your bone health. They are easily available online and most of the time these products don’t require a doctor’s prescription as they have already been approved by health specialists.

    Some rich and easily digestible calcium sources are orange juice, spinach, oatmeal, beans, sweet potato, sesame seeds and raisins. In addition to increasing your intake of calcium you also need to reduce your consumption of protein-rich food, especially the ones that come from animal sources. Proteins tend to increase calcium loss through urine just like sodium. That’s why health experts tell us to reduce our intake of salt as much as we can.

    Exercise is mandatory for proper absorption of calcium in bones. Don’t let proteins and other substances cause calcium loss in your body. If you are not used to doing physical exercise a lot, then take a walk or simply indulge yourself in household chores. Don’t sit idle for long periods of time. Vitamin D helps in controlling the amount of calcium in our body, therefore introduce vitamin D supplements to your diet after consulting a physician.