Calcium supplement proponents use maximum retention studies. They measure bone density before and one year after calcium supplementation. These studies show an average increase of 1 to 2 percent in bone density with calcium supplementation. They have used these studies to set the optimal level of calcium at 1,200 mg for men over 50 and 1,000 mg for men under 50. Unless you consume a lot of dairy, its not possible to get this much calcium without supplements.
There are four significant problems here.
Problem No. 1: These studies are of inadequate duration. We need to measure bone strength over a much longer period to gauge an authentic outcome.
Problem No. 2: They have no control. In fact, there are no large, long-term trials that compare a calcium supplement to a placebo.
Problem No. 3: When we correlate dietary calcium intake and fractures in various countries, we find countries with the highest average calcium intake tend to have higher, not lower, hip fracture rates.
Problem No. 4: The United States, England, and Sweden have completed seven long-term population studies that do not show reductions in the risk of broken bones with increasing calcium intake. In a large study of nurses, those with higher calcium intakes were at least as likely to break a hip or forearm as those with lower intake. The same was true for men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
These findings show that calcium supplements have no proven effect to maintain strong bones. Calcium supplements can also interfere with the absorption of magnesium, selenium, chromium, and zinc.
Take Control of Bone Building
The good news is that there are easy lifestyle changes you can make to help you build strong bones. Here is a comprehensive plan to do just that without calcium pills.
- Get your calcium in your diet. Eating a variety of small fish; dark, leafy green vegetables; almonds and cashews; or dairy products like milk, cheese, and yoghurt at least twice daily should give you enough calcium to meet your needs.
- Exercise. Heres a sure way to make your bones stronger and denser. The best way to increase bone density and reduce fractures is body-weight exercises and resistance training. Make a habit of doing these exercises two or three times a week.
- Check your hormones. They are important to direct calcium to build bones. Monitor testosterone and DHEA to determine your need for supplementation.
- Take a vitamin D supplement. I recommend 400 IU per day. It helps your body absorb calcium and maintain bone density. You will not be able to get that much from your diet alone.
- Get vitamin K in your greens. It regulates calcium while stabilising bones. It also regulates blood clotting. Eat at least one serving of green vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli every day. One study found people eating just 0.1 milligrams of vitamin K daily (about one large serving of greens) were 30 percent less likely to break their hips than people who ate less than that amount.
- Eat foods rich in B-complex vitamins. Your body also uses a variety of B vitamins in bone building. The best sources are liver, eggs, lean meats, yeast, fish, raw nuts, asparagus, broccoli, and bananas.
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Whyte J. Osteoporosis Prevention: What Kind of Exercise Is Best? Consultant 2004: 1,002-1,004
Willett, Walter. Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001, p. 141
Mercola, J. Do You Really Need Calcium To Build Strong Bones? Dr. Joseph Mercolas eHealthy News You Can Use, mercola.com/), 6/7/03