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I meet two friends at the neighborhood fitness center once a week. Last week one of them asked me if I still took calcium supplements after the new report linking calcium supplements with heart attacks. I hadn’t read about the study. Lin came to my rescue and posted a news article about on the Forum. Calcium News
First a disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or nutritionist. I haven’t read the original study reports. However, I have been an avid reader about preventive health care for more than 35 years. What follows is my opinion, plus a few quotes from books that I have found trustworthy.
The thing that jumped out at me in the news article is that it did not mention whether the study distinguished between calcium-only supplements and supplements containing calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D.
Most grocery store calcium is compressed calcium tablets without magnesium. In my opinion those tablets are worthless. Whether they cause heart attacks, I have no idea, but if the study was based on people taking calcium supplements that they buy at the grocery store, the results are skewed from the start.
Compressed tablets are not easily absorbed under the best of circumstances and in older women who are likely to have reduced digestive function, very little of the calcium is absorbed. This advice is under Calcium – Warnings in Prescription for Nutritional Healing. “Test your brand of calcium to assure absorption. Place the calcium pill in a glass of warm water and shake. If the calcium does not dissolve within 24 hours, change to another brand or form.” If you are going to take calcium supplements, do not waste your money on tablets. Get capsules chewables or liquid-gels.
Calcium and Magnesium must be taken together in order for either one of them to be useful. The rule of thumb is 2:1 calcium:magnesium. Some supplement manufacturers vary that ratio a little. Forty years ago Adelle Davis was writing that calcium taken without magnesium would actually cause calcium to be withdrawn from bones. Almost every book on my shelf talks about the importance of magnesium to prevention of heart disease. Here is just one quote from Dr. D in Live Right. “Many people with high cholesterol and triglycerides are magnesium deficient, so you may need a supplement.” If Calcium and Magnesium work together and must be simultaneously in the blood stream, why would anyone expect a Calcium-only supplement to be helpful, and why would anyone be surprised when research shows that it may be harmful?
Calcium and Magnesium need Vitamin D to be absorbed. If you do not get enough sunshine, and/or supplement with Vitamin D, the Calcium supplements you take may not wind up in your bones where you want them. They may wind up in your kidneys as stones or in your arteries as atherosclerosis.
Another factor is fluoride, which binds with calcium and prevents it from getting into bones. As a post menopausal woman, I resent the fact that my tap water is intentionally contaminated with a chemical that will hurt my bones.
The Type O diet doesn’t make getting calcium from food very easy. Most dairy is avoid. The few cheeses that are neutral, I use as garnishes rather than as main courses. Spinach, kale and almonds would be good sources of dietary calcium, if they didn’t contain so much oxalic acid which interferes with absorption and is linked to kidney stones and joint pain.
So I will continue to take calcium supplements in spite of the study. But no grocery store calcium for me. Capsules, chewables, or liquid-gels where calcium is combined with magnesium and Vitamin D.
And I'm like you, I am sick of "studies" that use one supplement without the others that are so necessary. The results are a waste of time and money.
Kristina - I haven't researched the rold of Vitamin K with calcium, but Melissa's comment is on the same topic.
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