Osteoporosis is a common American disease. Calcium supplements are thrown at people like pies. Doctors throw them at patients' bones like they're trying to hit something. Patients take them because they think they'll help their bones. But the truth is, everyone should avoid calcium supplements. Bones become weaker when we take them. Some supplements can even kill you, and scientific evidence backs it.
This study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that calcium supplements increase the incidents of kidney stones.
How scary is that!
And then this study and this study revealed that calcium supplements increase our chances of having a heart attack!
Freaked out yet?
This is after decades of doctors and the media urging us (mostly women) to take calcium supplements every day to avoid osteoporosis. You might remember millions of women carrying TUMS in their purses because “it’s got calcium,” even if they didn’t ever suffer from heartburn (TUMS intended use).
The TUMS people are actually still using the calcium angle (which is calcium carbonate, aka chalk) in their marketing strategy.
But before you throw your hands up and scream, “Here we go again! Something else that was once good is now bad. I give up!” let’s take a look at the science of calcium supplementation and make our decision based on the available data.
Why Are Some Calcium Supplements Harmful?
Understand that the human body is designed to get nutrients from food, so calcium supplements made from anything other than food will mostly be useless and might even be dangerous.
This study published in the British Medical Journal showed that synthetic (chemical) calcium supplements are ineffective for building strong bones.
This makes perfect sense. Suppose the body is designed to absorb calcium from food. In that case, it won’t properly utilize calcium supplements made from limestone or shells or those made from synthetic chemicals, which are the sources of calcium found in many cheap calcium supplements.
Nowhere in our natural food supply is calcium found in isolation, meaning we never eat JUST calcium in food. There are always other nutrients obtained along with it, in precise amounts and in specific ratios that make the calcium in food both recognized and usable by the body.
The human body will NOT know how to use calcium from rocks!
Does Dairy Provide The Calcium You Need?
You might say, “No problem, I drink milk every day to keep my bones strong. I’m covered.”
We hate to break the bad news, but no, you aren’t.
There is plenty of independent scientific research indicating that pasteurized cow’s milk is not only worthless to humans in terms of nutrition but could also be contributing to some of our most devastating diseases.
The dairy we typically consume is not only man-made and highly processed but also inflammatory. Cow’s milk was created for baby cows, not humans, as is the case with goat’s milk, baboon milk, yak milk, or whatever milk people are into drinking these days.
Osteoporosis will never be prevented or reversed with dairy, and dairy is unnecessary for supplying the body with adequate amounts of calcium. In fact, most cases of osteoporosis occur in countries like Europe and the U.S., where dairy consumption is highest.
This study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not consume dairy after infancy yet enjoyed very good bone mass.
Important Calcium Co-Factors
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is important not only for maintaining strong bones and teeth but also for regulating your heartbeat, conducting nerve impulses, clotting blood, and stimulating hormone secretions.
However, nutrients like magnesium, Vitamin D3, potassium, phosphorus, and Vitamin K2 are equally as important as calcium for bone density and strength and naturally accompany calcium in calcium-rich foods. Taking a calcium supplement that does not include them will skew the necessary mineral ratios we need for optimal function. The calcium will not be able to be used or absorbed properly.
This is why calcium deposits end up in our arteries and kidneys. The other co-factors which escort calcium where it belongs are not present.
Best Formula for Strong Bone Density
1. Stop drinking soda! A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who drank one soda per day had a 5-7% lower bone mass than women who drank one soda per month.
2. Eliminate processed food and other acid-forming foods like sugar, grains, and dairy. High acidity is dangerous to kidney function, so the body will make an executive decision to alkalize the environment in order to save the kidneys. It does this by pulling calcium from bones, where 99% of calcium is stored, and dumping it into the bloodstream.
3. Eat calcium-rich real foods like leafy greens (kale, spinach, collards, okra), broccoli, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts), salmon, sardines, oranges, and figs. *Calcium added to processed foods like cereal and yogurt is not acceptable.
4. Lift heavy things. The more you stress your bones, the stronger they get. Examples are bodyweight exercise, kettlebell routines, plyometrics, and weight lifting. *Walking is the best weight-bearing exercise for strengthening the spine and skeleton.
5. Keep insulin levels low. High insulin levels cause you to excrete calcium in your urine. It also slows the manufacturing of certain growth hormones in the liver, which are responsible for bone production. This is accomplished primarily by eating real food and limiting carbohydrate intake.
6. Take Vitamin D and Omega-3s. Both are imperative for bone strength for multiple reasons.
7. Take measures to counteract daily stress. Stress causes the release of cortisol which, in turn, inhibits calcium absorption.
Related Article: 3 Proven Ways to Reverse the Effects of Stress
8. Take a calcium supplement made from food. I’ve personally witnessed this product work for women with low bone density in follow-up medical testing.
People who do not regularly follow the lifestyle tips outlined above in numbers 1-7 absolutely need #8.
But if you’re going to take a calcium supplement, make sure it’s processed well and made from food to avoid the health-damaging effects of cheap calcium products.