Yesterday, on a mainstream news website, came this story “Women with high levels of calcium are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease“, a fact that naturopath’s have known for quite some time, but has been soundly ignored by medical professionals and the media.
How often do we hear of a woman being diagnosed with osteoporosis, and being told by their doctor to take high-dose calcium supplements? This comes straight from the medical mind-set of “one pill for one ill”, as if calcium is the only mineral that bones are made of, and that taking extra will fix the problem. There is so much wrong with this way of thinking, and we are seeing the consequences of that with the increased risk of heart disease from calcium supplementation becoming more widely publicised.
As I wrote in a previous blog post: A Calcium Supplement Problem – Serious as a Heart Attack” – “Anyone who has listened to David Wolfe’s Longevity Now! Program, or been to one of his live events, would be familiar with his stance on calcium supplements and the danger they pose to our health. We have been told for decades we need extra calcium to support our bones and prevent osteoporosis, however nothing could be further from the truth. Osteoporosis is a complex and multi-faceted disorder, and not one that can simply be corrected by adding in extra calcium supplements or increasing your dairy intake.
More important than calcium for bones, are the minerals magnesium, boron, silica and zinc; we need good levels of vitamin D, adequate protein intake, good hydration, an alkaline diet, hormone balance, and weight-bearing exercise to support our bone strength and to prevent osteoporosis, much more than any dangerous calcium supplement. And as this article below shows, calcium supplementation increases your risk of heart attack and cancer, not to mention painful calcification in other areas of the body such as joints and soft tissue.”
The article from the Daily Mail website states: “Women with high calcium levels are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease than those with ‘normal’ levels, scientists warn.
New research adds to evidence that calcium supplements could be doing more harm than good in people with adequate intakes by overloading the body. Hundreds of thousands of women over 50 take supplements for preventing osteoporosis, or thinning bones. But the latest research shows women with calcium intakes at least double the recommended level are at high risk of death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden studied 61,443 Swedish women aged 50 and over for an average of 19 years, including their calcium intake from diet and supplements. Average intake among those with lowest levels was 572mg per day (the equivalent of five slices of cheese), rising to 2,137mg per day among those consuming most. Results showed that over the 19 years, 11,944 women (17 per cent) died: 3,862 of these (32 per cent) died from cardiovascular disease, 1932 (16 per cent) from heart disease and 1100 (8 per cent) from stroke. The highest rates of all-cause, cardiovascular and heart disease were observed among those with a dietary calcium intake higher than 1400mg per day. In addition, researchers observed higher death rates among women with an intake below 600mg per day.
Women whose daily calcium exceeded 1400mg and also used supplements had a higher death rate than those not taking supplements – the risk was double compared with a daily intake of 600-999mg. The Food Standards Agency recommends adults have 700mg of calcium a day, which should come from dietary sources including milk, cheese and green, leafy vegetables. Researchers claim the way supplements increase the levels of calcium circulating in the blood appears to have a ‘flooding’ effect which might be harmful. Dietary calcium taken in small amounts is absorbed slowly, and efforts should be made to boost intake in people eating too little, they say.
There have been conflicting results from past research, with some studies finding high calcium intakes increase the risk of heart death among men and women while others have failed to show a link.”
This is why a holistic approach to healing is absolutely necessary. As naturopath’s, we understand that the human body does not have parts in isolation. We an integrated system, and what happens in one part of the body, affects every other part. We also do not conform to the “one pill for one ill” way of thinking, knowing that there are thousands of factors involved in the maintenance of health. To take a calcium pill to halt osteoporosis is a reductionist way of thinking and doesn’t take into account the complex processes involved in building healthy bone. And the side-effects of this way of thinking are now being seen.
Stay away from calcium supplements, and look to food as medicine to serve your nutritional needs. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, then consult a qualified and experienced naturopath – such as the service we provide at Embracing Health – and look at a comprehensive healing program that encompasses a lot more than calcium, for a true healing, without the dangerous side-effects.
7 commentsAdd comment
Interesting reading your article about calcium supplements. I don’t take them however my sister does and is always suggesting that I should also. I will forward her this very important article to read.
For the last year, I have been taking calcium supplements at a dose of 6000mg per day in the hopes it will strengthen my bones. After reading your article, I am now concerned I might die. Nice blog, by the way.
I too have been told by my doctor to take calcium supplements for osteoporosis, and this is worrying. What can I do instead?
My naturopath suggested I use Green Calcium or Coral Calcium instead of the crushed up cow bones that make up crap like Caltrate. Are there still the same dangers with these natural plant based calcium forms?
Thanks everyone for your comments, and I will address them individually:
Julie – that’s great that you can forward the article to your sister, it is an important topic and isn’t just scare tactics, the research is there to prove that this is a problem. Good on you for resisting the pressure to take them – there are many other things you can do to build good strong bones other than take inorganic calcium, as I’ll mention below.
Jim – “now I’m concerned I might die” – don’t stress too much! At least now you know that there are dangers, and that it is best to be off calcium supplements unless they are green, as I’ll mention below. I’m glad you like the blog, thanks for your feedback!
Jill – there is a lot that you can do to support good quality bone health without taking nasty calcium supplements. To start with, bones are made of many minerals, not just calcium, so it is very simplistic to think just one mineral is all we need. Other bone minerals include, magnesium, boron, silica, zinc and manganese. Vitamins D & K are very important in bone health. Protein is necessary (good digestion is essential), balanced hormones and weight bearing exercise. So it is not just one factor. If you have osteoporosis and do want expert advice, you are welcome to consult with our Naturopath and Health Mentor Rhianna Smith – see http://embracinghealth.com.au/health-products/healthmentoring/ for more information.
Kate – yes your naturopath is correct, there are a couple of forms of organic calcium that are OK to use and don’t cause the problems that inorganic calcium does. Green calcium and pearl calcium are the two that I know of that are actually good and are easily assimilated in the body. Of course taking these does not mean you can reverse osteoporosis, but in conjunction with the elements mentioned above, it can be of benefit.
I hope that helps everyone, and thanks for your feedback!
I just became a little bit confused upon reading your blog about the effects of calcium in our bones but then I got the points after reading the whole article and now I understand it more.
Informative article about the danger of calcium supplements. I agree that when it comes to bone health, it’s not just one nutrient that will solve the problem. Taking a liquid supplement that contains a spectrum of minerals provides a greater advantage for the health of the bones. Calcification of the bones also occur if you are ingesting more calcium than magnesium.