Calcium: The most popular pill you do not need
Advertisers spend millions on driving home the message that you need more calcium for stronger bones and teeth. Supermarket shelves are loaded with a confusing amount of calcium supplements. But will any of these calcium pills really help your teeth and bones?
But getting calcium in our changing modern environment is difficult. Some calcium can interfere with the absorption of other important minerals. The evidence of these very famous calcium supplements may surprise you.
Let’s look at how much calcium you really need and the best way to get it. Start by looking at what other nutrients you need to help you absorb and use calcium. They are part of a more effective strategy for building and keeping sturdy, crack-resistant legs for a lifetime.
Something has gone wrong with our legs
Nearly 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis, which affects one in three women (this is most common in women after menopause) and one in twelve men over the age of fifty costs the NHS a staggering £ 5 million every day. We suffer more than 1.5 million broken bones a year with 300,000 broken hips. You want to do everything you can to avoid cracking or breaking your legs … especially your hip that is extremely dangerous. More than a quarter of people with broken hips develop complications and die within a year of their injury. But is this problem caused by a lack of calcium?
Examine the evidence for calcium in the diet
Proponents of calcium supplements 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 supplements. They have used these studies to set the optimal level of calcium to 1,200 mg for men over 50 and 1,000 mg for men under 50 years. If you do not consume much dairy, it is not possible to get as much calcium without supplementation.
There are four significant problems here.
Problem # 1: These studies are of insufficient duration. We need to measure bone strength over a much longer period to measure true results.
Problem # 2: They have no control. In fact, there are no large, long-term studies comparing a calcium supplement with a placebo.
Problem # 3: When we correlate calcium intake and cracks in the diet in different countries, we find that countries with the highest average calcium intake tend to have higher, not lower, hip fracture rates.
Problem # 4: The US, England and Sweden have conducted seven long-term population studies that do not show reduced risks of broken bones with increasing calcium intake. In a large study of nurses, those with higher calcium intake were at least as likely to break a hip or forearm as those with lower intakes. The same applies to men in the Health Professionals follow-up study.
These findings show that calcium supplements have no proven effect for maintaining strong bones. Calcium supplements can also interfere with the absorption of magnesium, selenium, chromium and zinc.
The role of hormones in maintaining strong bones
It is true that calcium gives your bones their strength. You lock 99 percent of it in your legs. The remaining calcium dissolves in your blood and cell fluids. You do not necessarily increase absorption with calcium supplements. In addition, calcium deposits in bone are checked. The controls, like most substances in metabolism, are hormones.
Your legs are worn continuously and build up again in a dynamic balance. The tension in movements and lifting stimulates hormones to control new bone growth. Later in life, your sex hormones DHEA, androstenedione and especially testosterone decrease. These hormones maintain bone formation. A man’s hormones decrease more gradually than a woman’s, but still it is a transition from bone growth to bone loss. Your bone density decreases as you age not because you started to eat less calcium but because your hormones lead your body to put less calcium in new bone.
And although most people don’t realize it, vitamin D is also a hormone. It controls your calcium metabolism. Few foods contain natural vitamin D, except for dairy products and eggs. A new study showed that affected hips often had a vitamin deficiency.
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, a widespread increase in vitamin D intake is likely to have a greater effect on osteoporosis and fractures than many other interventions.