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Calcium Supplement: More Harm than Help?

Posted Sep 09 2010 9:13pm

It is estimated that  10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Of equal concern is the estimated 34 million Americans who have osteopenia – defined as moderately low bone density and considered the precursor to osteoporosis.

Meanwhile, doctors are quick to recommend calcium supplements for patients at risk for osteoporosis and their patients are apparently complying. In fact calcium supplements accounted for $142 million in US sales in 2007. But, new research has found calcium supplementation to be associated with a 20% to 30% increase in heart attack risk .

The researchers speculate that calcium supplements may rapidly elevate blood calcium levels, contributing to artery disease. Calcium from food sources, by comparison, is absorbed much more slowly and successfully. Given their results, the researchers question the wisdom of calcium supplementation as they point out that it is only associated with a very small decrease in fracture risk.

Furthermore, taking supplementary calcium alone will not prevent osteoporosis. We also need magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Vitamin B-12, silicon and boron for dense, healthy bones. So it’s best to obtain most bone building nutrients from a wide variety of foods, including: milk, yogurt, cheese, collard, turnip and mustard greens, broccoli, sesame seeds, almonds, figs and salmon (with the bones).

An easy way to obtain 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium (as well as other bone-building nutrients) from food is to eat 3 servings of dairy products (about 300-400mg per serving) and a variety of the non-dairy calcium sources above (approximately another 200 mg) per day. If you’re lactose-intolerant, try Lactaid milk and other lactose-free dairy products . They’re available everywhere these days.

If you do supplement your diet with a bone-nutrient formula, take it with meals, ideally in doses of 500 mg or less.

Be Well,

Carolyn


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