Is Supplementing with High Dose Calcium a Good Idea for Preventing Bone Fractures?
Millions of women are told by their physicians to take 1000-1500 mg/day of calcium supplements primarily to reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Professionally, I think this is NOT a good idea and may have significant adverse health effects.
The Chinese and Japanese cultures, which historically eat little or no dairy products and therefore get less than half the calcium that is in American diets containing dairy, have substantially lower fracture rates than Americans.
For those professionals who specialize in staying on top of the literature that is published about the benefits of certain herbs and dietary supplements, it is well known that vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium are KEY players in bone health.
In fact, it is my opinion, that intakes of magnesium (at least 500 mg/day), vitamin D (at least 1000 IU/day) and vitamin K-1 and K-2 (at least 500 mcg/day) with small daily amounts of calcium from dairy or 250 mg/day from a supplement, will offer more protection against fractures than these dangerously high doses of 1000-1500 mg of calcium per day that are being recommended, WITHOUT THE HEALTH RISKS THAT ARE DISCUSSED BELOW.
Cardiologist routinely measure “coronary artery calcium” (CAC) levels because they are known to be a reliable marker for atherosclerosis. Calcium actually can build up in the arteries, a phenomenon known as “arterial calcification”, which can also lead to stroke, heart attack and eye problems.
In fact, a recent study of 24,000 people, done at the University of Zurich, suggests that older Americans taking calcium supplements to reduce fracture risk may be increasing their risk of getting a heart attack. The researchers said this risk came about only in those taking dietary supplements of calcium and not in those getting their calcium from food.
The researchers reported an 86% increase in heart attack risk in people who took regular supplements of calcium versus those who didn’t take any supplements.
The study is somewhat controversial with some experts questioning “why there would be increased heart attack risk with taking dietary supplements of calcium but not with taking foods containing calcium?”
Personally, I don’t know why this surprises these experts because many foods that contain calcium also contain magnesium which is very important for bone health. Other factors in foods like vitamin K may help the calcium to get into the bone and not be absorbed by the arteries which is dangerous.
The bottom line for me is: If you eat reasonable amounts of dairy products you probably don’t need to supplement calcium at all.
If you don’t eat dairy products at all you can still get sufficient calcium from foods such as:
Salmon 6-8 ounces 440 mg.
Shrimp 6 ounces 300 mg.
Mackerel 6 ounces 600 mg.
Kale, collard greens, broccoli (1 cup) – 200 mg.
Almonds 6 ounces 700mg
Walnuts 6 ounces
In good health,
Curt Hendrix M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S.
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