Calcium - More of the Story
One of the first things I learned about nutrition is that nutrients work together and that they should be kept in balance. A varied diet of whole natural foods tends to be balanced and complete.
Over 25 years ago I was told that there were over 70 factors affecting calcium metabolism. By now I’m sure many more have been identified.
When it comes to building and maintaining strong bones, calcium is only one factor. Phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, zinc, boron, vitamin K, silicon, strontium and amino acids come to mind. Even fatty acids are essential, considering that they make up much of the membranes of all cells, including bone cells.
So it always struck me as peculiarly short-sighted that people would simply take calcium supplements for their bone health and that even the government would recommend what struck me as high intakes of calcium (although America’s high-protein, high-phosphorus diet might warrant that, but that’s another story).
In the past few years I’ve learned that it’s crucial for me personally to get enough magnesium, which needs to be balanced with calcium. That balance supports not just the regularity of bowel movements, but the regularity of the heart beat itself. When the heart is out of rhythm, blood clots and consequently heart attacks become much more likely in susceptible individuals.
So in reflecting on the study that we discussed on the front page, I can clearly see why calcium supplements could in fact be associated with heart attacks, although again, only better studies could settle that question.
If I were specifically trying to support my bone health, I would look first to a balanced diet, as well as lifestyle factors, particularly weight-bearing exercise. Keep in mind, by the way, that there are excellent calcium sources besides dairy products: leafy greens, sesame tahini, sea vegetables and more. Leafy greens might be the best choice, since they’re a prime source of magnesium as well.
Where my diet was lacking, I would use supplements as precisely that—supplements. In choosing supplements, I would try to mimic food in seeking a broad spectrum of balanced nutrients. And I’d be working with a nutrition-savvy doctor.
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