September 12, 2012
by MARCO TORRES
There a lot more to building strong bones than the simplistic notion that calcium supplements will do the job. In fact, most calcium supplements on the market have a much higher chance of doubling your risk of heart attack than strengthening your bones. Moreover, the dairy industry's fairy tale that pasteurized milk builds strong bones actually has the reverse effect and actually causes osteoporosis. Here's to dispelling one big myth and embracing six effective ways to build bone health.
We've always been told that calcium is the key to lifelong bone health, but last week a German study found that it could also double your risk of suffering a heart attack. It is a worry for women over 40, many of whom take large doses to keep their bones strong after the menopause.
The belief that calcium is what builds strong bones is absolutely ingrained in our society, but has no basis in reality--calcium is but ONE of the many minerals your body needs for building strong bones. Calcium supplements have demonstrated little benefit, and they may increase your risk for a cardiovascular event.
A 2004 study showed that people with excess calcium in their coronary artery and who take statins have a 17-fold higher risk of heart attacks than do those with lower arterial calcium levels; researchers concluded that the two most definitive indicators of heart attack were LDL levels and calcium build-up.
A 2007 study showed that calcium from dietary sources has more favorable effects on bone health than calcium from supplements in postmenopausal women (Am J Clin Nutr 2007).
A 2008 study found calcium supplements are associated with a greater number of heart attacks in postmenopausal women (BMJ 2008)
A 2010 meta-analysis showed calcium supplements (without coadministered vitamin D) are associated with increased risk for heart attack (BMJ 2010)
Dr. Eldon Dahl has explained the importance in the following PreventDisease.com interview of sourcing supplements with formulations that contain ingredients that complement each other.
Most supplements on the supplement market today contain calcium carbonate which is an inferior form of calcium and manufacturers attach a simple chelating agent like citric acid to make it more absorbable, however the end product is inferior to other calcium supplements such as calcium orotate, which is the only known form of calcium which can effectively penetrate the membranes of cells.
Another fact most people are unaware of is the myth promoted by the dairy industry that consuming pasteurized dairy products such as milk or cheese increases calcium levels. This is totally false. The pasteurization process only creates calcium carbonate, which has absolutely no way of entering the cells without a chelating agent. So what the body does is pull the calcium from the bones and other tissues in order to buffer the calcium carbonate in the blood. This process ACTUALLY CAUSES OSTEOPOROSIS. Milk definitively does not do a body good if it's pasteurized.
6 WAYS TO BUILD STRONG BONES
1. Eat calcium rich foods
Eat foods high in calcium. The best food sources are non-pasteurized raw dairy sources such as raw milk/yogurt, as well as bony fish, such as sardines. Leafy green veg such as kale, broccoli and spinach are also rich in calcium. Dried herbs and dried fruits such as figs and currants are also good choices. Seeds such as sesame, chia and flax are also rich sources of calcium. Also, enjoy foods that contain sulfur such as garlic and onions.
2. Food selections/combinations are critical
Try not to eat whole grains and calcium-rich foods at the same time. Whole grains contain a substance that binds with calcium and prevents proper absorption. Some foods that contain compounds such as oxalic or phytic acids, such as sweet potatoes, beans, rhubarb, celery and beets, can also decrease the amount of calcium that's absorbed when eaten at the same time as calcium-rich foods.
3. Avoid the causes of mineral excretion
Pass on phosphate-containing foods such as soft drinks. Phosphorus causes the body to excrete calcium. Limit or avoid high-protein animal foods. A diet high in protein causes calcium to be excreted from your body. Decrease caffeine consumption. People who smoke have significantly lower bone density, while drinking alcohol can also prevent your bones from absorbing the maximum nutrients from your food.
4. Get more Sunlight and Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Although some is found in oily fish, our main source comes from the effect of sunlight on your skin. It's estimated that half of us have a deficiency because we don't get outside enough or because we always use sunblock. It is especially important to maximize sun exposure between May and September to keep vitamin D levels topped up. Just 10 minutes of sunlight a day on bare arms and your face can cut your risk of bone fractures by
a third. A half hour exposing your torso is equivalent to roughly 10,000 units of Vitamin D.
5. The right exercise
Another vital way to boost your bones is weight-bearing exercise --basically anything that has you upright and using your body weight. Good choices include squatting, rope skipping, aerobics, plyometrics, dancing or brisk walking. "Research shows that if you don't exercise you end up weeing out all the calcium you take in instead of storing it in your bones," warns Professor Dawn Skelton, an aging and health specialist at Glasgow Caledonian University. "Ideally we should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. "Put simply, the more hours we spend on our feet, the fewer bone breakages we should have in later life."
6. Avoid Medications and Medical Therapies
Acid-blocking medications used for heartburn and other gastrointestinal conditions can block the absorption of calcium through the stomach walls. Stomach acids break down food during the digestive process, allowing the nutrients to become absorbed into your body. Medications designed to stop acid production or decrease the amount of acids present in your stomach can have a negative effect on calcium.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.