You've been told to make sure you're getting enough calcium a hundred times. And so many of us can develop a fear that we can't do it without a daily supplement of some kind.
But can you get enough from dietary sources? Or do you need to take supplements in order to protect your bones from osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fracture? And is calcium really the only factor?
Good research may have you thinking twice about increasing calcium intake, especially via supplements.
This new study finds that people over 50 don’t get stronger bones by taking higher doses of calcium supplements. Nor do they get strong bones from eating extra servings of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products.
The British Medical Journal’s online publication BMJ.com, says that the extra calcium doesn't go to strengthen bones but, in some individuals, builds up in the arteries, causing heart disease, or stores in the kidneys, causing kidney stones. Many people can also experience constipation from taking too much calcium. Holy Cow, maybe cows milk is better left to calves than humans!
Across the globe at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Dr. Ian Reid and colleagues did a meta-analysis on this same topic. They gathered all of the high-quality studies they could find from around the world and compared their results. Most of the studies showed that people over 50 received no benefit from taking either calcium supplements or from eating calcium rich food.
“Dietary calcium intake is not associated with risk of fracture, and there is no clinical trial evidence that increasing calcium intake from dietary sources prevents fractures,” they wrote. “The evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent."
“The weight of evidence against such a mass medication of older people is now compelling, and it is surely time to reconsider these controversial recommendations,” wrote Dr. Karl Michaelsson of Uppsala University in Sweden, who studies osteoporosis.
Michaelsson has led research that found people who drank the most milk had more bone fractures than people who drank less.
Now, everybody's situations are unique to their bodies and you should ask your doctor about how much calcium is right for you. Beyond this, bone health and strength does not depend just on calcium! Overall, we thought it would be valuable to you to see that evidence is growing for why increased calcium intake can also be detrimental to some peoples' health.
So, how do you actually protect your bones as you age? Move your body! Weight bearing exercise such as walking, running, playing tennis, lifting weights, yoga and pilates can strengthen bones.
If increasing your calcium is recommended, try to increase your intake through food rather than taking supplements -and not just from dairy sources. Leafy greens, almonds and seaweeds are all great sources. If supplementing due to osteoporosis or low dietary intake, stick to 500-700 mg/day and choose the most absorbable forms such as calcium citrate, malate or MHCH.
Also, reducing inflammation in your body helps with your bone and joint health. Cutting down on alcohol, excess caffeine, excess refined sugars and quitting smoking can also help, as all of the above can increase inflammation and weaken bones and joints.
Supplement with Vitamin D and other bone builders such as Vitamin K2, magnesium, collagen, boron, Vitamin B12 and manganese.
With a little foresight, and by not relying so heavily on supplementation, you can age with healthy bones.
Also consider these articles when considering health, aging, and diet: