You and your calcium…what now?!
In 2008, and then again in 2010, the British Medical Journal published info that had alarms ringing about calcium and that it may increase the risk of heart disease. Whoa! I thought calcium was good for me you say! Now we have the Journal of Bone Mineral Research reporting different results. So, what is really true and what do you need to do about it?
Okay, let’s start with the fact that I am a dietitian, not a statistician. So, that being said, in any research trial, there are a lot of variables. A lot. Like, did the trial go forward in time and how often were participants monitored..or..…did the trial go back in time and just ask participants to answer questions from memory. What form of calcium was used? What dose? What is the age of participants..what is their genetic tendency to heart disease with or without calcium supplementation….Do they smoke? Eat processed foods? Exercise? What other factors might have played a role in what appears or appeared to be an increased risk in calcium takers.
Sure, the researchers try to account for all of this. But, until a few studies are done, all pointing the same direction, it might be jumping the gun to form too strong of an opinion about something working or not working. For better or worse.
So, I mentioned the latest study in the Journal of Bone Mineral Research. The authors criticize previous trials for not being stringent enough on what exactly is heart disease (chest pain, heart attack, death…). They also criticize previous trials for not validating actual cardiovascular events and just taking people’s word for events.
Without getting into more research, I swear I learned in grad school that less well-developed countries consume a lot less calcium than we do here in the states, and they have NO osteoporosis. But they don’t drink caffeinated, carbonated beverages, sit around eating a lot of salt..and they move (i.e. exercise or weight bearing activity). Their diet isn’t as high in meat as ours which also saves their bones. They can’t afford to smoke either. Another bonus.
So, what do YOU need? Moderation as always. (That will always be my answer by the way.) I believe up to 500 mg of calcium was always considered safe anyway…and you need to do some weight bearing activity every day or most days of the week. Your diet (using food as medicine philosophy) should include a lot of plants foods anyway (more is better is the new motto and could easily be defined as 8-10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables). And, if you are really worried about your bones, you need more than just calcium. There are many supplement formula’s designed with bones in mind and contain not only calcium (in an absorbable form) but Vitamin D, Magnesium, Boron, Silica, Strontium, K1, K2 etc. Inflammation is turning out to be a player in bone loss too so anti-inflammatory nutrients and a plant-based diet are indicated.
There are urine tests that measure bone turnover, as well as DEXA scans to quantify bone density over time.
Plant foods naturally high in calcium: broccoli, sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, molasses, dark green leafy vegetables like kale…Play an active role in your health. Search for Calcium rich foods..find the ones you like and EAT EM’!