Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are Your Calcium Supplements Turning You to Stone? How to Make Sure Your Calcium Isn't Hurting You!

The title of this blog and the attached article sound so sensational, that you may be wondering why I chose to share it . . . After all, isn't calcium good for us?  Doesn't it "do the body good"?  What about our teeth, our bones and osteoporosis?  Don't we need calcium?  Can we get enough in our diet - especially if we are shunning milk?

These are all great questions and they need to be addressed . . . it's just that most calcium sources and supplements provide the wrong kinds of calcium, as this article points out.

Below this article I've included my favorite sources for bio-available calcium + a few tips to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of this essential element in your daily diet!

Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Attack Risk by 86%

Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Attack Risk by 86 Percent

New research published this week in the journal Heart has confirmed the findings of two controversial studies on calcium supplementation and heart attack risk published in the British Medical Journal last year, and which found a 24-27% increased risk of heart attack for those who took 500 mg of elemental calcium a day.[1] [2]
The results of this newest review, involving 24,000 people between the ages of 35 and 64, were even more alarming. Those participants who took a regular calcium supplement increased their risk of having a heart attack by 86% versus those who took no calcium supplements at all.

Why Do We Obsessively Consume Rock, Bone And Shell Calcium?

People really should not be so surprised at the idea that calcium supplementation may be toxic to cardiovascular health. After all, many subject themselves to coronary and cardiac calcium scans in order to ascertain their risk of cardiovascular events and/or cardiac mortality. This is because we know that calcium of the wrong kind in the wrong place can result in serious adverse health effects. There are, in fact, quite a few in the field of nutrition who have long warned against supplementation with elemental calcium; which is to say, calcium from limestone, oyster shell, egg shell and bone meal (hydroxylapatite). There are also those who have not needed to be "experts," because they exercised common sense when it came to not eating rocks or shells.
The seemingly universal popularity of taking elemental calcium supplements results from the promotional efforts of conventional health "experts" and organizations like the National Osteoporosis Foundation (whose corporate sponsors include the calcium manufacturers Oscal and Citrical). Also, the World Health Organization created a radically new definition of "normal" bone density in 1994 when it took the 25-year old young adult standard (which is peak bone mass in a women's life cycle), also known as the "T-score," and applied it to all women, irrespective of their age. This resulted in redefining the normal and gradual loss of bone mineral density that comes with aging as a disease, essentially medicalizing a non-condition.It also resulted in millions of women being coerced into taking unnecessary (and dangerous) "bone-building" drugs and inorganic calcium supplements to drive bone mineral density higher, by any means necessary. Suddenly, healthy women were being told they had a disease called "osteopenia" or "osteoporosis," even while their bone mineral density was normal for their age, gender and ethnicity (which would have been clear as day, had the age-mediated "Z-score" been used). Moreover, the #1 and #2 cause of death in women are heart disease and cancer, respectively, with heart attack and breast cancer being the primary causes of morbidity and mortality. When you consider that the risk of death as a side effect of fracture associated with low bone mineral density is infinitesimal relative to that of dying from calcium-induced heart attack, and/or high bone mineral density associated malignant breast cancer (300% higher risk for those in the top quarter percentile of BMD), the justification for promoting osteopenia/osteoporosis prevention and/or treatment in women's health above far more serious and likely health threats completely falls apart. In fact, it appears that this myopic fixation may be significantly contributing to their premature death.

Turned To Stone

Turned To Stone: When Calcium Goes To The Wrong Place

The reality is that the habit of consuming inorganic, elemental calcium simply does not make sense.  After all, have you ever experienced visceral disgust after accidentally consuming eggshell? If you have, you know your body is "hard-wired" to reject low-quality calcium sources (stones and bones as it were), in favor of getting calcium from food.
Inorganic or "elemental" calcium, when not bound to the natural co-factors, e.g. amino acids, lipids and glyconutrients, found in "food" (which is to say other living beings, e.g. plants and animals), no longer has the intelligent delivery system that enables your body to utilize it in a biologically appropriate manner. Lacking this "delivery system," the calcium may end up going to places you do not want (ectopic calcification), or go to places you do want (e.g. the bones), but in excessive amounts, stimulating unnaturally accelerated cell-division (osteoblasts), resulting in higher bone turnover rates later in life (this is explained in the article below).
Or, the body attempts to disburden itself of this inappropriate calcium and dumps it into the bowel (constipation), or pushes it through the kidneys (stones). Worse, high levels of calcium can accumulate in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can contribute to destabilizing the atherosclerotic plaque through the formation of a brittle calcium cap on the atheroma, can contribute to thrombosis (clot) formation, hypertension (that's why we use calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure), and perhaps causing arrhythmias/fibrillation and or heart muscle cramping, or coronary artery spasm (a rather common, though rarely recognized trigger of 'heart attack').
The breasts too are uniquely susceptible to ectopic calcification, which is why we use the same x-rays to ascertain bone density that we do to discern pathological microcalcifications in the breast, i.e. x-ray mammography. Due to the fact that the hydroxylapatitate crystals found in malignant breast tissue may act as a cellular 'signaling molecule' or mitogen (inducing cell proliferation), it is possible that certain breast calcifications may be a cause, and not just an effect, of the tumorous lesions ("breast cancer") found there. This may also help to explain why women with the highest bone density (often obtained through massive, lifelong calcium supplementation) have up to 300% higher incidence of malignant breast cancer.
"Brain gravel" is also an increasingly prevalent phenomenon, where autopsied patients have been found to have pebble-size calcium deposits distributed throughout their brains, including the pineal gland ('the seat of the soul'). The wide range of existing calcium-associated pathologies, and their increasing prevalence in calcium-fixated cultures, demand further investigation and explanation.  One aspect of this, no doubt, is our obsessive cultural fixation on mega-dose calcium supplementation for non-existing "conditions" associated with bone mineral density that is normal-for-our-age, but not for our doctors and the "experts" who guide them with industry-friendly misinformation.
I believe this new research puts the nail in the coffin of any remaining doubt that we should stay as far away from inorganic calcium supplements as possible, as well as the empirically and intellectually bankrupt disease models being used to coerce women into taking them in the first place.
To learn more, read "How Too Much Calcium & Over-Medication Can Break Your Bones"

Sadly enough this article is altogether true! But there is a lot of great information on calcium that your body can utilize - bioavailable calcium, and it's easier to find than you may think! In fact vegetable sources of calcium are plentiful and with just a little thought you can be sure that you are getting all of the calcium your body needs to maintain your teeth, bones, tendons, ligaments, maintain a healthy blood pressure, keep your blood vessels expanding and contracting, maintain healthy hormone levels, guard against colorectal cancer and maintain a healthy weight!

For years we have believed a fallacy that we had to drink milk, eat yogurt and cheese to maintain healthy calcium levels.  Unfortunately we were misguided because the calcium in these products is not the type of calcium that is easily absorbed by our human bodies.  In fact these foods may be associated with bone loss and tooth decay as well as cardiovascular disease and cancers.  

Just as the article above points out about elemental calcium,  the calcium in cow's milk acts much the same in our human bodies.  Combine that with the body's response to allergens often associated with cow's milk which give rise to inflammation in tissues throughout the body and a whole host of other health problems are introduced.

The good news is that there are many delicious high calcium foods in the plant kingdom.  These greens, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits contain calcium that is easier for human bodies to digest and our systems to absorb.  

Here are a few delicious options for you to add into your daily diet . . .

Sesame Seeds

1. Sesame Seeds

These white little seed-wonders are very high in calcium, as well as several other important vitamins and minerals.

Tahini is a paste or nut like butter made from sesame seeds.  It's an important ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking and has 426mg per 100g serving.

Chia Seeds

2. Chia seeds

Chia seeds aren't just high in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, they are also very high in calcium. In fact a 3.5 ounce serving provides about 631mg of calcium.

Dark Leafy Greens

3. Dark leafy greens

You know kale is a staple in my own diet, but all dark green leafy veggies like spinach, mustard and turnip greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, collards and even leaf lettuce are great sources for bioavailable calcium.  Spinach contains 56mg of calcium per cup, mustard greens 103 mg, kale 139 mg, collards 145 mg and  bok choy contains 158 mg.  

4. Flax Seeds

Like chia seeds, flax seeds are also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and high 
in calcium (256mg per 100g serving).  To add a bit of crunchy,
deliciousness to your meal try the Flax Cracker recipes I posted 
on 2/5 and 3/26.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa comes in several colors and is the only member of the plant family to contain a complete amino acid profile PLUS approximately 100 mg of calcium per cup!  You can find great breakfast, salad, side and entree dishes utilizing this delicious and nutritious seed in my cookbook - OMG! That's Allergy Free? 

6. Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap Molasses
OrangesI consider blackstrap molasses to be a nutritional all-star!  It contains large amounts of a wide array of minerals including about 60 mg of calcium per teaspoon!  It's strong, but when mixed with brown rice syrup it tastes so much like a yummy brown sugar caramel sauce it's crazy!  You can find MANY recipes utilizing this amazing sweetener from cookies to candies, caramels to Coconut Pecan Icing (perfect to top German Chocolate Cake), smoothies, cakes, pies and breads in my cookbook!  Try some today and you will be delightfully surprised! 
7. Oranges
One cup of freshly-squeezed organic orange juice offers approximately 72 mg of calcium. Not to mention plenty of vitamin c, which will significantly improve the amount of calcium your body absorbs. Besides vitamin c and calcium, oranges are also a great source for potassium, vitamin A and beta carotene.

8. Beans

While it's a given that many white beans like navy, garbonzo and cannellini are high in calcium, there's a new star in town!  Winged beans are an Asian variety that just made it onto the vegetable and legume scene in the US about 6 years ago.  It is uncommonly high in calcium containing a whopping 442 mg per cup.  I'm planting these in my garden this year!!!.

9. Broccoli

Your Mom was right when she told you to eat your broccoli because it's good for you!  One cup contains approximately 74 mg of calcium, plus about 120mg of Vitamin C which assists your body in absorbing the calcium - what a 1 - 2 punch! But it doesn't stop there . . . it's also high in Vitamin B's, A, K and folate + fiber!  See your Mother really did know what she was talking about!

10. Fruits & Nuts

Dried Fruits
Many fruits and nuts are high in calcium. Fresh or dried a fig (my summer fruit obsession) contains 27 mg per fig!  Almond butter - which I love even more than peanut butter - is a bit lower in calcium than tahini but still offers almost 200 mg per 2 tablespoon serving.  Check out my yummy salad that contains figs, greens and almonds in my cookbook - it's a veritable calcium love fest! 
Dried Herbs

11. Dried Herbs

Who knew that Simon and Garfunkle were giving health advice when they sang "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme"? It seems that common culinary herbs used in nearly every cuisine in the world would increase your daily calcium intake?  Dried or fresh they all pack a calcium laden punch.  The highest is savory, but dill, basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, poppy seed, mint, celery seed, sage, parsley and rosemary are all calcium powerhouses as well!

See, it's easy to fill your plate with bioavailable calcium each and every day! So forget about the milk, just eat one or more of these delicious options every day and your bones, your tissues and your heart will love you for it!

Dr. P

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, Peggy! You may be interested in Cassie's alkaline paleo work at